Food intolerance testing

‘Food intolerance’, ‘food sensitivity’ and ‘food allergy’ are terms often confused. Many people think they’re allergic to certain foods, when in fact they’re intolerant or sensitive. Food intolerances or sensitivities are much more common than food allergy (which only affects approximately 3% of the population).  Private food intolerance testing can help identify problem foods.

The difference between food allergy, intolerance and sensitivity

Food allergyFood intoleranceFood sensitivity = IgG food intolerance
Reaction timeImmediate reaction (2hr or less)From 1hr to a few hrsUp to 72 hrs after eating
Is it common?Approx. 3% of populationMore common than food allergiesVery common
Number of foods affectedUsually 1 or 2 foodsAny numberAny number
What’s affected?Primarily skin, airways and digestive systemMainly digestive system, skin, airwaysAny organ can be affected
Caused by…Raised IgE antibodyLack of or decreased enzymesRaised IgG antibody
ImpactLife-threateningUsually not life-threateningNever life-threatening
Lifelong?LifelongLifelong but managed through diet / supplementsCan be resolved over time
TestingBlood test or skin-prick test via NHSPrivate or NHS (e.g. hydrogen breath test, lactose/milk tolerance test, elimination diet) Private – food intolerance test, elimination diet

What is food allergy?

Food allergy is an immediate immune reaction to the food, which means your immune system is reacting to the food you eat by creating antibodies called IgE. Usually, your immune system reacts to the protein part of the food (e.g. peanut, milk, egg), but you can be allergic to any food substance. Allergies can happen when eating the food or by inhaling or touching food particles too.

Allergies can be life threating, so speak to your doctor if you suspect anything. The NHS won’t accept results from privately done allergy tests, so to save yourself money speak to your GP first to arrange a test through them. If your symptoms don’t point to food allergy or your results come back negative, then it may be worth exploring food intolerances/sensitivities.

Milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans account for 90% of food allergic reactions, but more than 170 foods can cause an allergic reaction.

What is food intolerance?

Food intolerance is a non-immune reaction to food, which means the immune system isn’t involved. Hence the symptoms experienced are because you’re lacking enzymes to digest certain foods. Lactose and histamine intolerance are examples of food intolerances. So, if you’re lactose intolerant, you’re not able to digest lactose (milk sugar) because you have low levels of the enzyme needed, called lactase.

Food intolerance symptoms can be rapid and may include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Rashes, flushing

What is food sensitivity?

When it comes to food sensitivity, your immune system is reacting to the food you eat, but it’s a delayed reaction which is much slower compared to food intolerance symptoms. Because your immune system is producing antibodies called IgG, food sensitivity can also be called “IgG food intolerance” and many testing companies use the “food intolerance” term instead of “food sensitivity”.

A food intolerance (sensitivity) test checks the levels of IgG antibodies your immune system produces when it comes across food molecules. The higher the number of IgG antibodies, the more sensitive you are to a particular food.

Although food sensitivities are not life-threatening, they are a wide-spread problem which can make you feel unwell and impact your quality of life.

The symptoms of food sensitives include:

  • Digestive problems such as bloating, irritable bowels, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, nausea, indigestion
  • Eczema or other skin issues such as acne, rashes
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression and low mood
  • Joint pains
  • Sinusitis
  • Runny nose
  • Dark circle under the eyes
  • Unintentional weight loss or weight gain
  • Bladder control issues

How do I test for food sensitivities?

Discovering IgG food sensitivities can be approached in two main ways: through an elimination diet or a food sensitivity test, with the option of combining both methods.

The elimination diet, considered the gold standard, involves removing common food allergens for around 30 days and then reintroducing them one by one to observe any symptoms. However, this method may not detect sensitivities to foods outside the eliminated group and can be time-consuming since only one food is reintroduced every few days.

On the other hand, a food sensitivity test offers a faster route to identifying problematic foods. While companies charge for these tests, the cost varies based on the test and the number of foods checked. If you’re experiencing food sensitivity symptoms affecting your daily life or have an autoimmune condition, a food sensitivity test can be particularly beneficial. Nonetheless, the expense of the test may be a deterrent, and results might not always be conclusive if you haven’t consumed the problematic food recently.

Numerous companies offer IgG food sensitivity testing, typically requiring a blood sample obtained via a finger prick at home. These samples are then analyzed in labs against food molecules. If you’re sensitive to a particular food, IgG antibodies may be detected. However, many labs use raw food molecules, potentially leading to reactions to the raw form rather than the cooked version. Additionally, food can trigger various bodily responses beyond IgG antibodies, such as inflammation, histamine reactions, IgE allergies, digestive issues, microbiome-related problems, and reactions due to increased intestinal permeability (known as “leaky gut”). Consequently, food sensitivity tests cannot capture all these reactions comprehensively. Nonetheless, understanding which foods trigger IgG antibody production can provide valuable insights for you and your nutritional therapist to tailor a personalized approach.

Cyrex Array 10 and KMBO FIT176 Foods & Gut Barrier Panel

If you’re interested in exploring food sensitivity tests, two prominent options are the Cyrex Array 10 and KBMO FIT176 Foods & Gut Barrier tests. You can find more detailed information and make a purchase by visiting the respective pages for each test:

Cyrex Array 10

FIT176 Foods & Gut Barrier Panel