As I reflect on this past year, getting a food sensitivity test was honest-to-goodness one of the main highlights. It had such a dramatic effect on my well being and quality of life, and it certainly dominated a lot of my conversations. In this post, I want to share with you why it was amazing and help you figure out if you’re a good candidate as well.
What’s a Food Sensitivity Test?
A food sensitivity test checks to see if your body reacts to certain foods. You may already know you don’t have food allergies, but you might have an inflammatory response to certain foods and not know it. This food sensitivity or intolerance can lead to digestive issues, joint pain, skin rashes, and can manifest in many other ways. There are different test options, like through a blood sample or a skin test.
These are usually done under a doctor’s supervision, although there are now many at-home testing kits. I would recommend talking with your doctor (my naturopath was a huge help) to find the best test for you. IgE tests assess allergic and immediate reactions, while non-IgE testing looks for delayed responses.
It’s debated whether or not the non-IgE tests are accurate. Their could be false-positives, and some people may react to most of what they’re eating, which is a sign of something wrong with their gut health instead of a specific food intolerance. If that’s the case, your doctor can help you take the right steps to improve your gut health and bacteria.
What Food Sensitivity Test Did I Get?
My naturopath recommended a non-IgE test. Honestly, I went by my friends’ testimonies: it seemed that those who had the skin tests didn’t get helpful results unless it was an environmental allergen, and those who had a blood-drawn food sensitivity test felt like they received helpful feedback and were able to change their diets and feel better. So that’s what I did, after asking my doctor for her recommendation.
I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for several years now. Chronic, as in always, and the pain was usually about a 7 or 8 out of 10. Always.
I treated myself very poorly when I was a teacher and developed chronic stress, was overworked, and completely lost sight of rest or self-care. My perfectionist personality didn’t adapt well to the classroom.
I Tried Everything…
Although I had noticed my health deteriorating slightly my first few years of teaching, there was a huge shift after our car accident. My hubs and I got into a wreck with a teen driving without her lights on. I was diagnosed with whiplash and just… never got better. I tried what seemed like everything, spent lots of money seeking relief and never found it. Whiplash is a beast, by the way, but I knew there was something else going on.
I just pressed through. My doctor at the time never really cared about the root cause and why I wasn’t improving, but just wanted to mask my pain with drugs. I spent a lot of time online researching remedies, and tried just about every single one. Bye, money.
Thank God for essential oils. I was able to avoid pain meds most days because I slathered myself with peppermint essential oil, which numbed me and gave me temporary bliss.
Although I’ll never be able to pinpoint the exact cause of all of my pain, I know that my joints were getting worse and the pain continued until my food sensitivity test. An old wrist injury was miraculously healed after one month on my new diet. I’m telling you, I’m sold on food sensitivity testing!
Good news and bad news: A few weeks after my test, my naturopath reported that I am very intolerant to dairy, and I had a few secondary intolerances, like gluten, oats, and mixing sugars (which was kind of complicated!). So we started an elimination diet. I had to give up all 4 things for 30 days, and then add dairy back in for one cheat day and see how I felt. Spoilers: I felt better (not great) but was utterly destroyed after my cheat day. So no dairy for me.
I was then asked to repeat the elimination diet for the other things. I did it with gluten after 3 months: utterly destroyed. I’m supposed to add back oats, but I don’t even want to. It’s guaranteed 3 days of torture if I’m still intolerant. I’d rather just avoid them, ha. So, good news is that I feel better, bad news is that I’ve given up many delicious things.
(2019 Update: I ate oats and was in so much pain all over. No oats for Al.)
Was It Hard to Give Up My Favorite Foods?
On one side, of-freaking-course! I moved to Portland and can’t drink beer, eat at Salt and Straw, and oh my word don’t get me started on the donuts I’m missing. My husband eats things that make me literally drool with jealousy.
But on the other side, I feel so much better. Each month or so, I’ve noticed a big difference in how I feel. My chronic, constant pain is gone. You guys, gone. I still am stiff and sore and have some joint pain, but it’s much less now and not constant. Also, I live in Portland which is incredibly friendly to people with allergies and sensitivities and I still get amazing food.
I of course am rooting to feel 100%, but after about 8 months, I’m so happy with my results. The foods I gave up aren’t even a temptation because feeling better trumps the taste of cheese any day. People always compliment me on my discipline, but knowing the consequences of eating those foods makes it easy.
I avoided this for quite awhile in North Carolina because I knew it was going to be pricey, but in the end I would have saved us so much money from trying everything else, and I would have felt better sooner! Honestly, it’s one of the top highlights of my 2017 and I wish I would have done it a long time ago!
Should You Get a Food Sensitivity Test? Who Are They For?
First off, let’s remember I’m a nutrition and fit coach, not a doctor, so talking to your doctor to see if you’re a good candidate is a great start. It seems that alternative practitioners are more likely to prescribe these tests. I’m not alone with my victory story, but the cons of food sensitivity tests are they can be expensive and unreliable.
Honestly, it took me a long time to even make a connection between my chronic pain and my diet. I eat “clean” and have for years. If you have a condition that seems unexplained or won’t improve, or if you have these common problems associated with a food sensitivity, it’s worth asking your doctor about. At least start the conversation!
- skin irritation/redness/acne
- digestive issues: bloating, gas, IBS symptoms, abdominal pain, nausea
- joint pain
- headaches, migraines
- brain fog
- mood disorders
- autoimmune disease
Do You Have to Get a Test?
I’ve read that the most effective food sensitivity test is an elimination diet. Like a for-realsies one, where you avoid any and all potential allergens for 4-6 weeks, and then add them back in slowly, one at a time, and see which causes a reaction.
I’ve known about this way of testing for a long time, but I’ve never been able to complete it. Eating that way was pricey and stressful for me, and it was hard to be strict for that many months! It adds a challenge to your social life, and there’s so much sacrifice while your results are far down the road. And you can’t cheat. At all.
Although it’s an awesome option, it personally didn’t work for me. There was discouragement looming about how much I was giving up, and that I wouldn’t have any answers for a long time if I didn’t screw up. I’ve also met way more people who have totally failed at this than succeeded. Now, I’m not knocking it -it’s an awesome, tried and true way to tell and get to the root of your issue! It just wasn’t a good fit for me, my life, and the stress I already had. I highly recommend one, if you’re more disciplined than me!
In hindsight, an elimination diet would have been worth it, but for my brain, it was so nice to have a test and answers.
Friend, I can’t tell you whether or not this is for you, but I’m so glad you’re here. I cannot say enough great things about my food sensitivity test and how it’s helped change my life. However, my story is mine. I encourage you to ask around; I made my decision based on research and people’s stories. My decision was made based on what I felt was right for me after talking with my doctor, and I am so thankful.
I encourage you to keep researching, ask questions (including to me, I’m happy to share more!), and take another step in this journey to figuring out what’s ailing you. Autoimmune disorders seem to be everywhere, and I’m believing I caught my chronic inflammation in time to prevent one – and maybe there’s still time for you!
Thanks for reading my journey. This has been so significant to me I want to shout it from the rooftops. I hope it’s helped you along yours! I’d love to hear your story or questions in the comments!
Best of Luck!