Do Food Sensitivity Tests Really Work? Are They Worth The Hype?

by | Apr 13, 2021

Have you ever heard from a coaching client that they recently took a food sensitivity test and found out that they now have a food sensitivity to everything? Yes. Well, we have all been there too! In this article, we will delve into food sensitivity tests and answer some common questions about them. What are they? Are they evidence-based? What should I tell my nutrition coaching clients who are considering taking a food sensitivity test? However, before we get into the bulk of it, first allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Tony Stephan, and I’m a dietitian business coach. I help RDs make more IMPACT and more INCOME through nutrition coaching. However, before becoming a dietitian business coach, I was an RD nutrition coach (just like you!). I served thousands of nutrition coaching clients over a time span of 12 years. My successful nutrition coaching business is what led me to where I am today. Now allow me to share everything you need to know about food sensitivity tests and where they fit into your nutrition coaching business.

What Are Food Sensitivity Tests?

The first important thing you need to know about food sensitivity testing is that a food sensitivity is not a medical diagnosis. Although the term “food sensitivity” is not a medical diagnosis, it is sometimes used as a catch-all phrase for food allergies and food intolerances. The truth is, the term “food sensitivity” can be used to mean whatever one wants it to mean since there is no medical definition.

Secondly, while we are talking about the definition of the term “food sensitivity test,” we should also briefly cover the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance. A food allergy is when the immune system reacts to a substance, normally protein, in the food. Food allergies can be life-threatening. A food intolerance is the inability to digest certain foods. A food intolerance is not an immune response, and it’s normally not life-threatening.

Are They Fact or Fiction?

The testing for a food sensitivity is actually similar to the testing for food allergies. Both food allergies and food sensitivities are tested for immunoglobulin antibodies. However, here is a big area where they differ: Food allergy tests look for IgE antibodies, and food sensitivity tests look for IgG antibodies. What’s the difference between IgE and IgG antibodies? There is a lack of evidence indicating that IgG antibodies identify any food allergies or intolerances. Most medical professionals do not back the testing of IgG antibodies due to the lack of testing, and that’s why insurance companies normally do not cover the testing for food sensitivity tests. 

Food sensitivity tests also use ALCAT testing to measure the swelling of cells when exposed to certain foods. As of now, no allergy or immunology institution supports the validity of ALCAT testing for diagnosing food allergies or intolerances. In summary, there is not enough evidence to support using food sensitivity tests as a medical practitioner at this time.

What Is The Bottom Line For Food Sensitivity Tests?

Unfortunately, a consequence of taking food sensitivity tests is that users may find themselves “sensitive” to multiple foods from test results. However, the issue with these tests results is that the results do not exactly equate to a food allergy or food intolerance. There is no way to truly tell from a food sensitivity test alone whether a person has a specific food allergy or food intolerance. Due to this, food sensitivity tests can lead to unnecessary diet restrictions. 

Ultimately, if you are concerned about the possibility of having a food allergy or food intolerance, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you go to a qualified medical professional. Food sensitivity tests are not the best method for detecting food allergies or food intolerances. In the end, you’ll save money and time through bypassing the food sensitivity test and going straight to a qualified medical professional who can address your concerns and can help you with your next steps.

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