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Wildheart Wanderings

My musings, shared with you, you to help you on your journey

Food Sensitivity Testing

Updated: May 19, 2021

In the Facebook group I admin that is focused on using nutrition to manage lipedema (link below), we are constantly questioned about how to test for food sensitivities. While many go the route of an elimination diet and a food journal, and others investigate muscle testing or the pulse test, others opt for an inexpensive hair strand test. Here is a brief discussion about that test and food sensitivity questions we sometimes hear when someone receives their test results.

The most frequent question we get is why someone has an allergy to a particular food but the food doesn't show up on the sensitivities test. This invalidates the test, right? No, it doesn't. Food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances are different reactions and cause different processes in the body which different tests are looking for. You may very well have a food sensitivity but not be allergic to it and vice versa.

People also question the validity of the test when something they eat "all the time" shows up on the test as a sensitivity for them. What we need to understand as we look at these results is that a sensitivity does not give us the same symptoms as an allergy. You will not have closing airways and a need to rush to the hospital if you have a food sensitivity. You may have achiness three days after you eat the food. You may start coughing during your meal. You may develop a rash or have bloating or any number of symptoms. It is also important to keep in mind that your body could be producing antibodies to that food or it could be causing inflammation or irritation and you aren't even aware of it. This is especially true if you are eating it (and other foods) every day so symptoms are constantly present.

Another test result that people ask us about is when they either test sensitive for a food they never eat or do not test sensitive for a food they know they react to but have removed from their diets. Did you know that cashews and mango are similar in molecular structure, as are avocados and cinnamon, as well as mustard and broccoli? These types of tests will often group these foods and report a sensitivity for all foods that are closely related whether you eat them or not. Now let's suppose you found out long ago that you don't feel well after eating something like gluten. Your hair test only reflects a reaction the body has to a food you have eaten in the last few months (or a molecularly similar food), so even if you cannot tolerate gluten it may not be in your report because you haven't eaten it in the past several months.

We should keep in mind that sometimes we will react to a food not because we have a true sensitivity, but because something else going on in our bodies is making us not digest well. For example, if we have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome we could have slow gut motility which results in food staying in certain places along the digestive tract too long and creating digestive issues. If we have low thyroid function, we could have decreased stomach acid and that will make us feel "bad" because we don't have enough acid to digest foods expediently and thoroughly. Oxalates could be causing a dip in thyroid function which leads to fatigue and achiness. If we have a gut health problem like SIBO we could have the wrong balance of digestive organisms in the small intestine and that could lead to abdominal pain or nausea. If we have histamine intolerance we could be having a histamine reaction that might result in a headache, inflammation, or stuffy nose.

These are only a few examples of the many things that could be going on in our bodies. This is also a very simplified explanation of why sometimes a food sensitivity test doesn't report something that you "know" you react to. If it's a true sensitivity, then a small amount of the food is probably a bad idea. If another explanation is the cause of your reaction, you may be able to eat a small amount. This is why it is so important that we know our own bodies and figure out what works for our own unique set of circumstances.

For many, a hair strand food sensitivities test is a great starting point for figuring out what foods work best for their bodies. It's always important to remember that test results will change over time as our bodies change and are able to tolerate more or less food options. We should also understand what reactions in the body the tests are looking at and the limitations of such a test. No test is 100% accurate 100% of the time, whether performed at a doctor's office or at a lab. Once you educate yourself on the type of test you likely need and what the results truly reflect, keeping in mind that there are other factors you need to be aware of can help you make better decisions about your food choices and your own Lipedema journey.

Facebook group focused on Lipedema & Food Sensitivities:

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