What is a Food Sensitivity Test?

Jake Newby

| 3 min read

A food sensitivity test tube is pictured above a table full of food.
Health, wellness, and weight-loss ads are all the rage on social media. You may have recently seen ads for food sensitivity tests on your feeds.
Also known as Immunoglobulin G (IgG) food panel tests, the purpose of these tests is to get to the root of the foods that your body may not tolerate. Some foods may cause us to deal with uncomfortable symptoms like digestive issues or a skin rash. At times, after eating a day’s worth of different foods and meals, it can be tough to figure out which food is triggering symptoms. Food sensitivity tests are designed to help determine what is causing these symptoms.
Food sensitivity test are at-home test kits that can be bought online or at drug stores. Most food sensitivity tests require you to prick your finger and drop blood onto a paper card before mailing back your sample. This is done to measure the levels of IgG antibodies in your blood. IgG protects you from infection by “remembering” which germs you’ve been exposed to in the past. After a few days or weeks, you’ll receive digital results that list the foods that may be giving you problems.

Food sensitivity and food allergies

Food sensitivities are when an exposure to certain foods produces a mild reaction of your immune system. This reaction can manifest itself as many different symptoms including things like joint pain, skin rashes, or digestive issues. However, a food sensitivity is not a severe or life threatening reaction.
A food allergy is a more severe reaction that could be life threatening. An example of a food allergy is an allergy to peanuts that could affect someone’s ability to breathe.
Food intolerance is different than a sensitivity or an allergy. Food intolerance affects your digestive system, and not your immune system, so will not be detected with food sensitivity testing.
Food sensitivity tests may offer clues about the causes of symptoms, but they cannot determine whether someone has a food allergy with absolute certainty, according to the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.
Aside from breath tests – which doctors and specialists sometimes use to detect certain gastrointestinal conditions like lactose and fructose intolerance – there are no validated tests for food sensitivity. These tests are also not FDA-approved. Medical organizations have recommended against using them because they have never been scientifically proven to do what they set out to do.

What should you do if you think you may have a food sensitivity?

If you are suffering from digestive issues, it’s worth scheduling a visit with your primary care provider. Together you can attempt to figure out what is at the core of your issue. It may not even be food related. Your primary care provider may also recommend meeting with a specialist, like an allergist or immunologist, who can properly diagnose and manage your condition.
You can also talk to your primary care physician about starting an elimination diet. The goal of these diets is to determine which foods don’t agree with your body and lead to your symptoms. By eliminating certain foods, or entire food groups, you can see which foods are causing or worsening certain symptoms. (Yes agree with this- elimination diets can be very helpful)
Foods to consider avoiding while on an elimination diet:
  • Citrus
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Wheat and gluten
  • Nuts
With time and attention to detail, you can achieve the kind of clarity promoted by food sensitivity test manufacturers through an elimination diet.
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