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Food Sensitivity Testing: How Effective Is It?

a aperson holding a dish full of peanuts
Last Updated on June 28, 2022

In the past, we knew little about how or why some people have severe allergic reactions to food. Research has increased awareness of food sensitivity, food intolerance, food allergies, and their effects on our overall health.

You may wonder if some of your health problems might be related to food. This article will answer several of your questions about food sensitivity, intolerance, and allergies and help determine whether you need to get tested for food allergies.

What is Food Sensitivity Testing?

Many of us associate severe and life-threatening immune reactions with food allergies. Food sensitivity is different. The reaction comes on much more slowly and is rarely life-threatening. 

Food sensitivities often go undiagnosed because the body's reaction to the trigger food may come days after ingesting the food. You can spend a lifetime not knowing you have food sensitivity. If you suspect you have one, you can pursue testing.

What Are the Symptoms of Food Sensitivity?

How can you tell whether you should get tested for food sensitivities? Some common signs of food sensitivity are migraines, bloating, diarrhea, and acne. 


Migraines are headaches that vary in intensity with focused throbbing in one area. Patients experience pain plus nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Frequent migraines can severely affect your day-to-day life.


Bloating is a gastrointestinal symptom characterized by tightness, pressure, or feeling full. It is due to a buildup of gas, air, or fluid in the stomach. In most cases, it is a mildly uncomfortable symptom. Bloating lowers your quality of life when it becomes a regular occurrence. 


The symptoms of diarrhea are loose or watery stool and belly pain. You might not immediately connect diarrhea symptoms with food sensitivity; contaminated food, inflammatory bowel disease, or irritable bowel syndrome can also cause diarrhea.  


Sebum, a substance produced by glands in your follicles, helps keep your skin moisturized. When overproduction clogs the follicle and traps bacteria, forming a pustule, you have acne. While most teenagers experience acne at some point, acne in adults is likely due to an underlying cause. Research has shown that acne is an inflammatory response to some foods.

These problems are such common ailments that many sufferers do not immediately associate them with something they ingested. The reaction might also come several days after ingesting the trigger food, making it more difficult to pinpoint the problem. 

What Are the Foods That Cause Sensitivity?

A wide variety of foods are associated with sensitivities. One or more foods can trigger an immune response.

Some of the most common foods that cause sensitivity are eggs, corn, soy, shellfish, dairy, and meats such as beef, pork, and lamb. 

What Are the Tests Performed in Food Sensitivity Testing? 

Food sensitivity tests work by identifying IgG (immunoglobulin G) antibodies in your blood. If you are sensitive to a particular food, it moves through the barrier of your gut and into your bloodstream, causing an inflammatory response. 

You can use an at-home test kit. After it arrives in the mail, prick your finger to deposit drops of blood on a card. Mail your kit back to the company; they will send your results via email in a week or two.

Everlywell claims that you can test up to 96 foods. Categories include dairy, eggs, fruits, grains, legumes, meat, seafood, seeds and nuts, vegetables, and spices.

Where to Get Tested for Food Allergies

We have discussed the nuance between food sensitivity and intolerance. We should distinguish both from food allergies, which can cause immediate, sudden symptoms and can be life-threatening. 

There are two types of food allergy panels: a food allergy blood test and a food allergy skin test. It is best to see a professional allergist for both of these tests.

An allergy test for food can be dangerous and should be done by a licensed medical professional. You can search "food allergy testing near me" online to find a doctor who can perform the testing.

You may wonder what foods to avoid before allergy testing. Your allergist might instruct you to fast before the test or avoid any foods you have reacted to in the past. 

What is a Food Allergy Blood Test?

Like food sensitivity, a food allergy is an immune response. A blood test for food allergies measures IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies. Your allergist will draw blood and send it to a laboratory for testing. Results can take several days to arrive. 

Your allergist will meet with you to explain the results. A positive result means there is a chance that you have an allergy; this is not a definite diagnosis. 

What is a Food Intolerance Test?

As stated above, the difference between food intolerance and food sensitivity is the way your body reacts to the trigger food. The terms often are used interchangeably, and many test kits claim to test for both. If you are exploring food intolerance, these test kits might help you eliminate trigger foods from your diet.

You can also see a gastroenterologist for professional food intolerance testing. 

Because the response to food intolerance is more immediate, you can monitor your diet and log symptoms in a food journal. Finding patterns between your diet and symptoms could help you save money; you won't have to buy an expensive test kit or visit a specialist. 

What is a Food Allergy Skin Test?

This is also called a skin prick test; a reaction on the surface of your skin determines whether you are allergic to certain foods. The doctor will apply a small amount of test material to a spot on your skin, usually the forearm or back. Then, he will prick your skin with a needle to allow a small amount of the allergen into your body. 

Since food allergy responses are immediate, you will receive results at the doctor's office that day. Another positive aspect of a skin test is that it is more sensitive. It is possible to have a negative result on a blood test but a positive result on a skin test. 

When allergy testing food allergies, approximately 50 percent of allergy skin tests and blood tests yield false positives. One possible reason is that the test measured your response to undigested proteins. After digestion, your IgE antibodies might not detect the presence of that protein in your blood. 

Another possible reason is that the test might not distinguish between similar foods. A peanut allergy might cause you to get a positive result for other legumes, such as green beans, even if you have never had allergy symptoms after eating that food. 

What is the Difference Between Food Sensitivity and Food Intolerance?

There are many terms associated with health and reactions to food. It is easy to use terms interchangeably when they describe different things. 

While food sensitivity is not yet clearly understood by medical professionals, it is associated with increased levels of IgG antibodies as a reaction to food. The delayed reaction distinguishes between a true food allergy and a sensitivity. 

Food intolerance occurs when the body lacks a particular enzyme needed to break down some foods. 

For example, lactose intolerance occurs when a person's stomach does not provide the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in dairy products. A lactose-intolerant person can take a lactase pill before eating dairy to avoid a digestive reaction. 

Having a dairy sensitivity might be more difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms might affect your gastrointestinal system several days after ingesting dairy. 

The key difference between food intolerance and food sensitivity is how your body reacts. Sensitivity is an immune system response, while intolerance is a gastrointestinal response. 

Non-celiac gluten intolerance is another example where the symptoms originate in the gastrointestinal system. Celiac disease is a sensitivity causing an immune response. 

Is Food Sensitivity Testing Necessary?

Testing is not necessary, but it can be helpful. 

At-home test kits for food allergies testing are not recommended by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, as officials do not believe these tests are useful or effective. You will find glowing testimonials from people who have tried at-home kits. They took the test, adjusted their diets according to their results, and found relief from their symptoms. 

But, the presence of IgG antibodies does not necessarily indicate food sensitivity. It could be a sign of tolerance rather than intolerance, reflecting the memory of your immune system. 

If you experience frequent migraines or stomach problems, exploring food sensitivity testing might be for you. 

Food sensitivity testing measures an antibody response in your bloodstream. Food sensitivity tests and food allergy tests measure two different types of immunoglobulin antibodies. While these tests are not precise measurements, many patients have found relief from their symptoms by eliminating trigger foods from their diets. 


Jennifer Benjamin, Should You Take a Food Sensitivity Test? Here's What Health Experts Have to Say, retrieved from 

Dr. Pooja Mahtani, Struggling with food sensitivities? Your hormones may be playing a role, retrieved from 

Blood Tests, retrieved from 

Everlywell, Food Sensitivity Explained, retrieved from 

Food Intolerance Testing, retrieved from


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