Is Food Sensitivity Testing Right For You?
Do you have long-standing health concerns that don't seem to get resolved, no matter what you do? Do you have multiple symptoms that cause you to "symptom chase" to figure out what's wrong? Would you like a more holistic and individualized approach to your health? The answer may be in a simple blood test.
There's so much power behind the things we do every day that our habits can push us towards the path of illness, or the path of wellness. Eating is an important habit that we do every day (usually multiple times a day). This is why I truly believe in the notion of food as medicine—the things that we do the most often have the most potential to create change. It's so incredible that movement towards healing can begin as soon as you take your next bite. Additionally, I believe that knowledge is power, and I want to help people take control of their lives.
“There's so much power behind the things we do every day that our habits can push us towards the path of illness, or the path of wellness.”
As a naturopathic doctor in Ontario, I have access to many specialized tests to help my patients get to their intended goals. One of my favourite tests to do is called a food sensitivity test. It significantly accelerates patients’ healing potential and helps to keep them on track with their health.
WHAT IS IT?
In Ontario, this test is run by naturopathic doctors (ND). It’s a simple blood test that is done at your local lab; however, it’s very important to distinguish a food sensitivity vs. allergy vs. food intolerance.
A food sensitivity is an IgG immune reaction to food. This can result in a big variety of signs and symptoms which includes (but are not limited to) acne, psoriasis, eczema, fatigue, painful periods, infertility, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, migraines, joint pain, depression, anxiety, and difficulty losing weight. IgG responses are often delayed, so it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what foods you are sensitive to. Chronic exposure to food sensitivities can cause inflammation to build up and damage our gut lining—making us more susceptible to a phenomenon called "leaky gut," or intestinal hyperpermeability.
A food allergy is an IgE immune reaction to food. This causes a release of mast cells and histamine, which then causes typical allergy symptoms, such as skin rashes, swelling, redness, and itchiness. IgE responses are often quite immediate, and you will notice symptoms very shortly after exposure to the food. Severe IgE responses (such as peanut allergies) can often be life-threatening.
A food intolerance indicates the lack of digestive enzymes to break down a certain food molecule. The most common symptoms are bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation. A well-known food intolerance is lactose intolerance, which is characterized by symptoms caused by the consumption of dairy and the subsequent lack of the enzyme (lactase) to break down lactose. Symptoms from food intolerance are often minimized when taking a digestive enzyme specific to the intolerance (e.g., taking a lactase enzyme to help break down the lactose molecule). Food intolerances often occur due to a combination of factors—the key ones being genetics and gut health.
To summarize, both food sensitivity and a food allergy are immune reactions (albeit different types of immune reactions), while food intolerance is a digestion reaction.
WHO IS IT RIGHT FOR?
Food sensitivity testing is great for individuals who like having quantifiable information about their bodies and who work well with structure. It can often be the missing piece to getting your health on track, especially if you've had chronic, unresolved symptoms. If you have health concerns regarding your skin, mood, digestion, hormone balance, and/or pain management, food sensitivity testing may be something valuable to explore.
If you’re not ready to make nutrition changes or do anything with the information, this test may not be right for you.
Please note: This is not a test to diagnose celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder against gluten. This test can, however, determine whether you have gluten sensitivity.
Some individuals may not benefit from a food sensitivity test if:
- It’s not the root cause of your concerns.
- Other systems of healing have to be addressed before tackling food sensitivities.
- You are on immunosuppressant pharmaceuticals.
If you are interested in having a food sensitivity test done, an assessment must first be completed by an ND to see if you’re a good candidate.
WHEN TO TEST?
It’s never too early or too late to complete this test—especially if you've had multiple health conditions that you'd like to address. However, you must be sure that the foods you are testing have been in your diet recently. For example, many people avoid dairy for long periods because it causes them uncomfortable symptoms. Because food sensitivity testing is an immune reaction to food, it will not show accurate results unless your body has had exposure to the food in question.
WHY SHOULD I TEST?
There are many reasons why you might want to get tested. Maybe you don’t want to be self-conscious about your skin when you go out in public; you want to be able to leave the house without having to worry about bathroom access; you want to spend less of your days in pain, and more of them with joy.
We all know that nutrition and lifestyle changes are difficult to implement. Many of us want to make healthier decisions so that we can feel better in our own bodies and be the best version of ourselves for our loved ones. With all the information available on the internet, it can be hard to know exactly how to get there; healthy eating can become so overwhelming that it leads to inaction. Having food sensitivity testing performed helps to take the guesswork out of your diet and individualizes the results specifically to you. If you suspect that you may be sensitive to a certain food, this is a great way to confirm it.
Working with a naturopathic doctor means that you’ll have a professional decipher your results who also knows exactly what to do with them. You’ll also have someone to keep you accountable on your journey to health.
Food sensitivity testing is a simple blood test that can help you determine whether the foods you're eating are causing you to be unwell. It can help guide healthy eating that's individual to your body, and help you get the answers you've been looking for all this time.