I recently decided to have a food sensitivities test done in order to identify any specific foods that might be triggering responses in me. I worked with an FDN-P nutritionist to order the test and then discuss the results. This article is the first in a series that discusses that process.
Why Take the Test?
I took the test at the recommendation of several friends familiar with the test and my health history. I have pretty decent health—no ongoing or significant health problems—but I also have a few nagging concerns. Things I can live with, but I could live more happily without. I’ve suffered from migraines off-and-on since childhood, although they’re “in a good place” now—meaning I only have to reach for my prescription medicine a few times a year instead of several times a month. I’ve also suffered from eczema as a baby and again when living in Germany for a couple of years (it seems to clear up pretty well with only occasional flare-ups when I live in California or Florida). I had asthma as a child, and though I don’t seem to now, I feel like my lungs are weaker than they should be. I’ve also suffered from urticaria (hives) since middle school. Sometimes I can identify what causes them (quick and extreme fluctuations in my body temperature), but most times I can’t. My digestive problems aren’t awful, but they exist. My stomach is often uneasy in the mornings, although it seems to feel better a couple of hours after waking and doesn’t seem directly correlated to any specific food habits.
I didn’t expect this test to fix all of these things—but I was hopeful that it would provide me with some insight to my body and its reactions, likes, and dislikes. I was hopeful that this knowledge would empower me and help me feel more in control of my body—like we’re allies working toward a common goal instead of competitors butting heads. And I won’t lie—I kind of geek out over information like this. Discovering details about yourself feels akin to having an intimate date with a long-time lover. You’re getting reacquainted, learning new things—getting tickled at new discoveries and nodding confidently at things you know to be true. It feels like an awakening and a validation all at once. I was excited to find out what my body would reveal to me.
What Does the Test Actually Test?
This article explains it in detail, but here’s the basic idea. The immune system is super closely connected to the gut—the microbiome in our gut regulates our immune system, and moreover, right outside the digestive tract literally lies a layer of immune system. If food particles wiggle their way out of your gut (via leaky gut syndrome, for example), your immune system identifies them as intruders and starts attacking them—they’re somewhere they shouldn’t be, after all! However, this teaches the immune system to treat those food particles as the “enemy,” leading to unpleasant body responses, like inflammation, rashes, and upset stomach whenever it encounters those food molecules.
This Mediator Release Test (MRT) exposes the blood you provide to different foods, chemicals, and ingredients and measures the response it has to each one, letting you know exactly which foods your body tends to identify as “intruders.” This doesn’t mean you’re allergic to these foods or you can never eat these foods again—it simply indicates that your immune system has identified those foods as needing a histamine response. In the words of the company, the test “quantifies how strongly your immune cells react…by measuring intracellular mediator release indirectly.” Those mediators it mentions? Those are things like histamine, cytokines, and prostaglandins which can have harmful effects on the body long-term. When the body is kept in a constant state of “defense” against these otherwise harmless food particles, it can lead to chronic inflammation and other declines in health and wellness.
This list of foods can be a kind of shortcut for an elimination diet. Instead of eliminating everything from your diet and adding back very few things, you can try eliminating only the things on your list, and going from there. As long as you add foods back one at a time and judge your body’s response to them, you can identify how your body reacts to certain foods and decide whether, when, and how much to incorporate them into your diet.
Taking the Food Sensitivities Test
The food sensitivities test requires submitting a few vials of blood at a corresponding lab. If you’re interested in the test, contact an FDN-P practitioner and let them know. They can have a package containing a box, vials, and paperwork for the bloodwork, which you need to take with you when you have your blood drawn at the lab. (Pro tip: Call before going to the lab to make sure they will work with the company and also to find out if there are certain times they do those kinds of tests—I learned this the hard way!) The FDN-P will also let you know what their fees are (both for the lab work/tests and the consultation).
You’ll have to pay a fee to have your blood drawn at the lab, too; this varies by location/company, but will likely be $25-45. (Pro tip #2: Drink lots and lots of water before going to get your blood drawn. After they were unable to stick me, I was sent back to the waiting room to chug some water for another 30 minutes before a different technician was able to get my blood going.) The lab takes care of sending off your blood, so you can sit back and relax while you wait for the results! (It will probably take 1-2 weeks.)
Read more in the next article in the series!