Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.
The food we eat is supposed to make us feel good. It should fuel our bodies and provide us with the energy we need to perform and function well. Yet, while we know the importance of making sound nutritional choices, we often know less about how reactions to certain foods can affect both our immediate and long-term health.
In the case of food allergies, you may already know which food(s) result in an adverse reaction. Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are much more difficult to pinpoint. Nonetheless, understanding both food sensitivities and allergies is critical to maintaining wellness. Fortunately, food allergy testing is available to help you learn more about the foods your body tolerates poorly. Find out more below.
What Is Food Allergy Testing?
Food allergies can be challenging to understand. There tends to be confusion around food allergies and food sensitivities because the phrase is largely used to describe both true allergic reaction to foods, as well as adverse reactions that are nonallergic. These are also called food sensitivities or intolerances.
Food Allergies vs. Food Sensitivities
- Allergic reactions occur when symptoms arise within seconds to hours after ingesting the trigger food. These symptoms may including wheezing, coughing, tingling of the feet and hands, tightening of the throat, abdominal cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, anaphylaxis can occur. Some foods commonly known to produce allergic reactions include soy, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, and tree nuts.
- Food sensitivities, on the other hand, can be tolerated without life-threatening complications but will still produce uncomfortable symptoms that can occur within 72 hours of exposure. Sensitivities are caused by an immune response which is mediated by the IgG antibody. This is the largest circulating antibody in the human immune system, and can pass from mother to child via the placenta. MSG and gluten are also known for producing sensitivities. Allergies and sensitivities are both immunologic responses, one immediate/hypersensitivity, the other delayed.
The Importance of Food Allergy Testing
In many cases, individuals know they have food allergies and are aware of which foods they must cut out from their diets. While young children may eventually grow out of allergies to milk or other foods, some allergies are lifelong.
In the case of food sensitivities, however, issues can go unidentified for many years. Since we expose ourselves to so many different types of foods with multiple ingredients that undergo complex processing, pinpointing a sensitivity to a specific food isn’t simple. Yet, adverse reactions to foods are surprisingly common, with as many as one-fifth of the population experiencing at least one food sensitivity. 
If sensitivities just produce some uncomfortable symptoms, what’s the harm in continuing to eat the offending foods? After all, symptoms will pass with time.
It turns out that food sensitivities are actually critically important to address. Many of the foods we include regularly in our diets could unknowingly be causing or contributing to serious health problems.
Unidentified sensitivities can contribute to a host of chronic ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, autism, ADHD, eczema, headaches, ear infections, insomnia, and gut malabsorption. And, they may also be caused by underlying factors that pose further risks to your health, such as stress, infections, artificial preservatives, additives, antibiotics, molds, and pollutants. Clearly, food sensitivities demand much more attention than we’ve given them in the past.
Additives in Food Can Cause Reactions
There are thousands of additives used throughout the food industry, some of which are known to produce adverse reactions. These include:
- Nitrates: Commonly found in processed meats, nitrates produce skin rashes and itching in some individuals.
- MSG (monosodium glutamate): Experts have long warned against this flavor enhancer, which has been linked to headaches.
- Sulfites: Found in many wines, sulfites both enhance flavor and preserve food. They can cause hives, asthma, wheezing, and allergic rhinitis. In fact, in 1987, the U.S. even required wine companies to note the additive in their labels for sulfites of more than 10 parts per million.
- Colorings: Red and yellow colorings are notorious for producing reactions. 
Of course, there are many more ingredients and foods which can cause both food allergies and sensitivities.
Who’s a Good Candidate for Food Allergy Testing?
Being that 20% of people are allergic or sensitive to at least one food, food allergy testing is a good idea for everyone. With that being said, there are certain populations who may face an increased risk for food allergies or sensitivities. Factors that indicate a clear need for food allergy testing include:
- A family history of food allergies
- Having other known food allergies
- Experiencing other allergies, including hay fever or eczema
- Asthma 
In addition, anyone who has experienced adverse reactions after eating certain foods should be tested for food allergies and sensitivities. These reactions could include:
- Skin symptoms, such as rash, hives, tingling, redness, and itching
- Digestive issues, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea
- Respiratory issues, such as coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and nasal congestion
People with food sensitivities may experience hard-to-trace symptoms, such as headaches, irritability, and nervousness. Because such symptoms are often attributed to other conditions or brushed aside as normal phenomena, many cases often go undiagnosed. If you have any suspicions that you could have a sensitivity to food, it’s important for both your immediate health and your future wellness to get tested.
Types of Testing That Are Available
There are a few different types of food allergy testing available. Before your physician is able to recommend a specific method for you, they may first ask a few questions to better understand what could be causing your reactions, such as:
- What types of symptoms do you have?
- How long after eating do symptoms typically occur?
- How often do you experience reactions?
- Are you taking any medications?
- Do you notice symptoms after eating a specific type of food?
Additionally, they may ask you to provide general information about your diet, family history, and your living and work environment. Plus, you may be asked to keep a diary and track the foods you consume along with the symptoms you notice and when they appear. This information can help clinicians pinpoint which foods are producing adverse reactions, and what can be done to mitigate their effects. If it’s deemed that you could have a food allergy or sensitivity, they’ll use one of the following methods to test for them.
Food Allergy & Sensitivity Tests
Both sensitivities and allergies are abnormal responses to foods spurred by the immune system in the via immunoglobulins (IgE, IgG, and IgA). Specific IgE tests can be given which commonly test for up to 25 different foods known to cause allergies. IgG and IgA tests may also be performed to test for sensitives to foods common in the typical western diet (up to 184 foods.)
These include specific grains, nuts, types of produce, and even beverages, such as tea. Depending on your symptoms, these blood tests are the preferred tests here at Cenegenics as they can very specifically pinpoint food allergies as well as sensitivities.
In some cases, skin prick tests may also be used to determine reactions to different foods. In these tests, the skin is pricked with a small needle which allows the substance to penetrate beneath. When an allergic reaction takes place, a small pump will be produced. Skin prick tests are not always recommended, however, because they’re not 100% accurate.  While some clinicians may use this method of testing, Cenegenics does not.
Yeast & Intestinal Immunity Tests
With food sensitivities, a disturbance of the intestinal microbiome may occur, known as gut dysbiosis. Over the short term, gut dysbiosis is known to produce symptoms like bad breath, nausea, constipation, bloating, and diarrhea. Over the long term, it could contribute to:
Gut dysbiosis may also potential increased risk for serious diseases such as:
Yeast and immunity tests can be used to pinpoint the causes of gut dysbiosis. These tests look for specific inflammatory markers commonly seen in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid conditions, among others. Specifically, Cenegenics utilizes the H. Pylori as well as the Candida profile testing.
Environmental Allergy Tests
Although food allergies are fairly common, diet isn’t always the cause for chronic symptoms. In some cases, environmental factors such as exposure to allergy triggers may be contributing to issues such as headaches, fatigue, and other hard-to-trace symptoms. Tests such as mold tests can help to uncover irritants or even toxic exposures, and Cenegenics offers this test in addition to the other mentioned food allergy and sensitivity tests.
Elimination or exclusion diets are useful for identifying food sensitivities. In this approach, the individual removes suspected food(s) for a set period of time ranging from two weeks to two months. If the symptoms disappear after the food is removed, it can be deduced that the specific food was indeed the culprit.
This may be further confirmed by the return of symptoms if the food is reintroduced. While our physicians are not opposed to this method, food allergies and sensitivities can more easily be pinpointed by the blood tests previously mentioned.
Food Allergy Testing Could Change Your Health & Change Your Life - In Conclusion
Our eating patterns are often complex, which can make it difficult to determine whether chronic symptoms could be attributed to specific foods. Through allergy testing, clinicians can uncover the food allergies and sensitivities that may cause you discomfort and impact your long-term health.
After your initial Elite Health Evaluation, if our physicians feel that there is reason to believe you may be experiencing the symptoms of a food allergy and/or sensitivity, additional tests as mentioned above can be ordered and run at an additional cost. This allows us to determine whether there are any foods you should avoid which may react adversely with your genetic makeup.
We can then provide tailored nutrition recommendations to help promote ongoing optimal health. If you’re interested in finding out more, contact your nearest location to inquire about our exclusive elite health evaluations.
Next Steps to Discovering Your Food Allergies & Sensitivities
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About the Contributor
Global Director of Nutrition & Exercise
Rudy Inaba is Cenegenics’ Global Director of Nutrition & Exercise. He is a recognized fitness and sports nutrition consultant with nearly 15 years of experience in clinical exercise physiology and lifestyle management. After pursuing his Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Rudy joined Cenegenics where he leads 20 clinical locations nationwide in their advancements in kinesiology, nutritional biochemistry, and their analyses of industry research & market trending.
This guide was produced with contributions from the following key resources:
The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation
The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 1: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy
Jeffrey Park Leake, M.D., CPT
Dr. Jeffrey Park Leake is a Partner and Director of Education at Cenegenics Elite Health specializing in age management and wellness. Having trained hundreds of physicians worldwide, Dr. Leake is also the Director of Education for the Clinical Strategies for Healthy Aging course at AMM Educational Foundation.
Todd David Greenberg, M.D., CSCS
Dr. Todd Greenberg is a practicing physician with a broad range of expertise, including wellness, exercise, sports injuries, and MRI of sports injuries. He is a Radiology Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington.
 Is It A Food Allergy or Sensitivity?, Retrieved from https://foodallergy.com/allergy-immunology/food-allergies/
 Foodallergy.com; see above.
 Medical News Today - Food Additives and Intolerance, Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263965.php#intolerance_additives
 Medline Plus – Food Allergy Testing, What is Food Allergy Testing? Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/food-allergy-testing/
 Medical News Today; see above.
 healthline – What Causes Dysbiosis and How Is It Treated?, Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/dysbiosis#complications