Food sensitivity tests have grown in popularity over the years. If someone is experiencing digestive issues, they might first jump to the conclusion that a specific food must be the cause. These tests have been used for at home testing of food sensitivities. They are marketed as an easy and convenient way to test whether your body is having a reaction to a food. Is a food sensitivity test really the best way to pinpoint how your body is interacting with certain foods though?
What are food sensitivity tests?
Food sensitivity tests look at how the body reacts to different foods. This is to help identify what types of foods may be causing digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. A food sensitivity is different from a food allergy though. These tests are only meant to identify foods that cause digestive discomfort and are not as serious as something like a food allergy, which usually impacts the immune system.
These tests work by measuring levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG) from a saliva or blood sample. You would have to mail this in to be tested and would get your results sent to your phone in as little as a few days. Usually, about 100 or more foods are tested and in the results, each is given a score. Those with higher scores have the highest amount of IgG and are marketed as the foods you are more sensitive to.
Are food sensitivities always the cause?
Sometimes digestive troubles are caused by things other than food insensitivities. One thing that could be causing digestive discomfort could be just your overall diet. Are you eating too fast and too much at once? Are you eating a lot of fiber in one sitting? Is your diet mostly processed foods or foods that are lacking in nutritional value?
Stress could be affecting the digestive system. Your sleeping habits could also be putting digestive health in jeopardy. It is important not to automatically jump to conclusions about what is causing your stomach discomfort. There are many things that could be affecting you that might be fixed with a simple change in your lifestyle. It is also important to remember that digestive distress does happen from time to time and is nothing to worry about! It’s when it becomes constant is when you may have to reassess what you are doing.
So how accurate even are these food sensitivity tests?
At home food sensitivity tests really aren’t an accurate way to find out if you really have food sensitivities or not. There is debate whether IgG scores actually help identify if you are sensitive to a certain food or if it is just a high IgG score because you eat that food often and are actually in fact tolerant to that food. You will not want to just cut out foods that the test may think you are sensitive to. This could lead to restriction of foods, deficiencies and even an unhealthy relationship with food.
Instead, it is important to talk to a dietitian who can help you start a food journal to help identify foods that you may be sensitive to. A dietician may also be able to recommend different ways of eating that will help you improve your digestive health while still continuing to get enough nutrients in your diet.
While food sensitivity tests may sound convenient, they are really not as accurate as they are made out to be. They may recommend that you cut foods out of your diet that you are not really sensitive to, causing restriction, deficiencies, or a possible unhealthy relationship with food. Talk to a dietitian if you think that food may be the cause of your digestive distress.
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This article was written by Mackenzie Flug, nutrition intern. Fact checked by Allison Tallman RD.