The year is 2116…
Just over a hundred years ago, in 1912, vitamins were categorized as food components necessary to maintain health. Diseases like scurvy & rickets (simple deficiency diseases caused by lack of vitamin C and D, respectively) were finally easily curable and nutrition science was on its way to defining a host of other maladies. Today, only a century later, we’ve developed complete blood workups, antioxidants in pills, fresh food prepared and delivered to your door, and genetic analysis to help us obtain optimal health. Imagine where we’ll be in another hundred years!
I’m going to stake a claim here: nutritional counseling will advance to the point where we will be able develop hyper-tailored nutritional goals centered on individual physiology. We are already developing tests that will show which nutrients you are over or under consuming, how quickly you metabolize those nutrients, and which foods to avoid altogether. Best of all, these tests will be as easy and time consuming as getting a haircut. And I say this with certainty because in some ways the future is already here!
There are many organizations exploring this field, and one that caught my attention is Everlywell. Everlywell is a company that provides at-home kits for testing for all kinds of things – fertility, heart health, sleep hormones, and you guessed it: food sensitivities. When they reached out to me about trying a test, I was most curious about that one. I eat all foods, enjoy all food groups, and have never noticed any symptoms distinctly related to any particular food, but I’ve also heard people say that they didn’t know how bad they felt until they tried cutting out something that turned out to be a trigger. Could I be sensitive to certain foods and not realize it?
I wasn’t sure how easy I expected the process to be – many food sensitivity tests require you to obtain a doctor’s order, visit a lab for a blood draw, and then mail the results back to your doctor. It can take weeks before you get the results. (Pro tip: ALWAYS ask your doctor for a copy of any test results – keeping an ongoing file as you move around is important!) With Everlywell, the process is pretty straightforward:
- Create a profile on their site, and order your test. It should arrive within 7 days, right to your door.
- Take the test. Some tests require urine collection, others a finger prick. The food sensitivity test is a blood test, so it comes with 2 easy-to-use lancets for a finger stick. I tried to use mine first thing in the morning and found it hard to get enough blood flowing to fill the circles on the test, so I stopped and did it again right after I exercised. Blood flow, no problem! If you’re queasy or anxious about this, make sure there’s someone else in the room with you. I promise, it doesn’t hurt any more than a rubber-band snap, and it requires less blood than what you’d get from a paper cut!
- Mail it back in the pre-labeled envelope and wait. But not for long. My test results came back within 7-10 days; they’re posted right on your Everlywell profile online so no need to wait for snail-mail!
Food allergy vs sensitivity vs intolerance
There are actually many ways your body can react poorly to food, and each specific reaction dictates how it is catagorized.
Your body creates Immunoglobin E (IgE) antibodies (tiny proteins) in response to a food that it identifies as harmful. These initiate histamines and a cascade of other hormones which result in acute (very quickly occurring) responses such as rashes, itchiness, and swelling, the latter of which can be fatal if it inhibits airways.
Your body creates Immunoglobin G (IgG) antibodies in response to a food. IgG proteins initiate much sneakier, longer-term reactions like systemic inflammation, migraines, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), and even skin conditions like eczema. Symptoms can take hours or even days to develop and can take just as long to disappear after withdrawing the offending food. In other words, these responses won’t kill you, but you could be pretty miserable! This is what the Everlywell test measures.
Your body is missing an enzyme needed to break down a food, or the bacteria living in your gut aren’t the right kind or are improperly balanced. Lactose intolerance falls into this category. If a person’s body doesn’t produce lactase (the enzyme needed to break down the sugar lactose found in milk) it proceeds into your intestines where bacteria break it down – in a very gassy reaction!.
Got it? There’s a more in-depth explanation and references here if you want more information!
So what does it mean?
Everlywell clarifies that just because you have an IgG sensitivity to a food, you may or may not need to remove it from your diet. It analyses 96 foods and puts them into one of four categories (0-3) based on how strong the strength of the IgG reaction (3 is the strongest). So you can start by removing the foods in Category 3 to see if you notice a difference. You should definitely share results with your doctor or dietitian to get their feedback, and to focus in on other tests that might be necessary.
Since I want you to really see what the test results look like, I’m making mine available for anyone to check out: click here to view!
You can sort the list by food group or by reactivity in descending order. I have only one food in Categories 3 & 2 each, about 20 in Category 1, and most fall into Category 0. According to this test, the most likely foods to cause a reaction for me are brewer’s yeast and cashews. Both found in many things I love!! Like I said, I’ve never noticed any particular reactions to foods, but now I’ll pay closer attention and maybe try taking a few weeks off of beer and cashews.
Want to get tested? Use this link and the code “EVERLY10” to get 10% off your order!
A few things to note: the tests aren’t diagnostic; that is to say, you should visit your doctor and share it with him or her to get a professional opinion. It’s not available in 4 states due to regulations: NY, MD, RI, NJ. The labs they use are CLIA certified with 95% 3rd party validated accuracy.
Taking control of the food you eat is the first step to controlling your overall health – and the more you know, the better you can decide what to eat more of, and what to avoid. A simple habit swap can have a huge impact on health! Have you ever done food sensitivity testing? What’s on your “avoid” list? If you haven’t, would you choose to?
Everlywell sponsored this post and offered me a complimentary testing kit. I’m planning to order more from them in the future at my own cost because I liked the quality of information and their ease of use.