Updated: Mar 26
A food allergy is an immune response to a particular food and there are tests (through bloodwork or skin) that can indicate a food allergy. It's important to get tested if you suspect you have a food allergy as symptoms can become progressively more serious. Reactions occur soon after food is ingested.
A food intolerance, on the other hand, is not an immune response and symptoms can take several hours and into the next day(s). A food intolerance means just that: your body does not tolerate the food well. There are tests being sold for food intolerance, providing a nice revenue stream for the companies selling the tests but they are not necessarily accurate [or even close to accurate]. I believe these tests can create more harm than good as it may steer individuals away from consuming healthy plant-based foods that inaccurately appear as food intolerance. Testing for antibodies in food intolerance just doesn't work: food intolerance does not trigger an immune response or elevated antibodies so these tests do not work very well.
I began questioning the effectiveness of the food intolerance tests when I took one myself several years ago. I took it soon after taking a micronutrient test that identified nutrient deficiencies [these are reliable and can be a great tool]. Here is how that happened: I have Hashimoto's, a thyroid disease, and one of the deficiencies that came up on the test was asparagine, a non-essential amino acid known to have great health benefits. I made a visit to see a nutritionist right about the same time and was told to include more asparagus, a rich source of asparagine, to support my thyroid and health, in general. Here is the interesting part: I took a food intolerance test shortly after and a relatively long list of no-go foods came back, including asparagus. Huh?
I hadn't suspected negative reactions to most of the foods that came back as an intolerance and now this test was telling me to avoid a food that is chock full of a nutrient I was deficient in. A friend of mine had taken the same food intolerance test, and in fact recommended it to me, and she swore that avoiding the no-go foods on her list resulted in an incredible improvement in her health- so I avoided the foods that came back for me for a period of time. Unfortunately, no clear benefits were evident and none of my symptoms resolved: a great example of bio-individuality and how our bodies are so unique and respond differently.
It's understandable to want definitive testing for food intolerance as the symptoms can create havoc and gastrointestinal issues. The best way to identify any food intolerance is to remove it entirely from the diet for a certain period of time and then monitor your body's reaction when you slowly reintroduce it. There are protocols and programs to do just that - research the subject and find what speaks to you best as it is a process that can be difficult to maintain if you do not have clear goals or a plan in place.
With love and sparkles,