Do at-home food sensitivity tests work?

Do at-home food sensitivity tests work?

If what you’re eating is eating away at you, here’s some food for thought.

You might have what 20 percent of Americans have – a food intolerance.

A food intolerance is when your digestive system has trouble with certain foods. These foods can cause bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, headaches, runny nose and fatigue.

An example is lactose intolerance. Somebody may be able to have a small amount of milk or cheese, but too much and their body reacts. Gluten and fructose intolerances are also common.

Food intolerances differ from food allergies. Allergies don’t affect the digestive system but trigger the immune system and can cause heavy breathing and rashes.

To quickly diagnose potential reactions, at-home food intolerance tests have been developed and are growing in popularity. Ranging from $100 to $300, users send in hair, cheek swabs or blood samples and testing companies send back the results, identifying foods to avoid. Some also offer customized tips to improve your health.

But do these tests work?

Blood tests look for an antibody called IgG, which our bodies normally produce IgG after eating food. IgG antibodies have not been shown to reliably identify either food allergies or sensitivities.

Breath tests have been shown to be more accurate in diagnosing lactose intolerance but are not proven to be effective to diagnose other food intolerances.

Meanwhile, saliva captured by cheek swabs can be analyzed for genetic testing, but there’s not enough data to support its wide-spread use.

That said, there is currently no evidence that at-home tests help diagnose or prevent food intolerances.

In fact, Jennifer Vargo, a dietician at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, does not recommend at-home tests. Inaccurate results can lead to over-restriction of one’s diet and misguide people into avoiding certain foods that are part of a nutritious diet.

If certain foods are hitting your stomach hard, Vargo recommends visiting with your primary care provider and meeting with an allergist or registered dietician to get a proper diagnosis and learn more about the types of foods your body needs.

Taking a look at your diet? Take our free healthy weight quiz.

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About the Author

Matt Queen
Matt Queen

Matt Queen, health enews contributor, is a communication coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. He is a former TV sports anchor and journalist with extensive public relations experience across the health care spectrum. Outside of work, Matt enjoys watching sports (of course), cooking, gardening, golfing and spending time with his wife and two young children.