Food Sensitivity Testing: How to Use it, Benefits & the Test I Recommend | Nikki Yelton RD

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Food Sensitivity Testing: How to Use it, Benefits & the Test I Recommend

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There is so much confusion around food sensitivities it can make your head spin. Food sensitivity testing is a powerful tool in healing your gut and reversing autoimmunity… but only when done the right way! Let’s shed some light on this complicated subject, shall we?

Food such as granola that might come up as reactive when food sensitivity testing

Food sensitivities have become quite the hot topic in functional medicine. And as a functional medicine practitioner, I’ve received countless questions about food sensitivity testing: Are food sensitivities real? Can they actually cause unwanted health symptoms? Can you heal food sensitivities? Do I have to eliminate my food sensitivities forever?

Food sensitivity testing has most definitely sparked interest, but also much confusion. With endless conflicting information available, what’s the truth about food sensitivities and testing? Let’s shed some light on this complicated subject, shall we? 

WHAT ARE FOOD SENSITIVITIES 

Food sensitivities are an immune system reaction that can cause individuals to feel sick with a variety of adverse symptoms such as digestive issues such as bloating, headaches, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, weight imbalances, anxiety, and so much more. When a food sensitivity is present, the immune system reacts to proteins that cause the release of chemicals called mediators (such as histamine, prostaglandins, cytokines) from the white blood cells in the body. This mediator release causes inflammation, which is associated with all the negative symptoms of  food sensitivities. 

WHAT IS FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTING?

While food sensitivities have become a popular conversation, testing has gained a poor reputation over the years. Unfortunately, there are many unreliable and inaccurate food sensitivity tests out there. With that said, there are also legitimate and accurate testing options available . For this reason, I recommend working with a trusted functional medicine practitioner, who can order a trusted test for you. But, we’ll talk more about this later! 

Before going any further, it’s important to clarify that food sensitivity testing measures food sensitivities– not food allergies or intolerances. I often hear these terms used interchangeably, even though they have very different meanings. 

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FOOD ALLERGY, SENSITIVITY, & INTOLERANCE?

Food allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances are not the same thing and the terms are often used incorrectly. A food allergy is an adverse reaction to food that involves our immune system. It further breaks down into two kinds of reactions, food allergy, and food sensitivity. Food intolerance does not involve the immune system (example: lactose intolerance which involves the digestive system)

Differences scenarios explaining whether you have a sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy
FOOD ALLERGY

Unlike food sensitivities, food allergies result in serious, life-threatening reactions. You’ll likely know if you have any food allergies, as they will appear almost immediately. Food allergies can cause hives or skin rashes, trouble breathing, swelling, and more. Common food allergens include peanuts (or other nuts), eggs, shellfish, and honey. At all costs, avoid all foods you know you’re allergic to. 

These reactions to food only account for a small percentage of adverse reactions. They are the least common (affecting only 1-2% of the population) but are also the most dangerous. Food allergies are known as an IgE mediated immune response that can lead to anaphylactic shock. This is a severe hyper-reaction of the immune system caused by a massive release of histamine and other chemical mediators from specific white blood cells called mast cells and basophils. It is important to note that not everyone with food allergies will experience anaphylaxis. Individuals suffering from a food allergy can often identify what foods they are allergic to without the help of a doctor or diagnostic testing because the symptoms are very obvious and clear. The MRT Leap test will not identify an IgE food allergy. 

FOOD INTOLERANCE

Food intolerances are a completely different animal. They can create digestive discomfort, like bloating, gas, pain, diarrhea, etc. While they aren’t fatal, they can certainly be uncomfortable. In most cases, food intolerances are addressed through digestive protocols.

Food intolerances are similar to food sensitivities in regards to digestive symptoms, however the reaction doesn’t involve the immune system such as a food allergy or food sensitivity would. A food intolerance occurs simply because as the food is consumed, it isn’t digested properly and begins to ferment inside the gut. A familiar example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance. Many people experience bloating, gas, diarrhea, and indigestion because they don’t produce enough natural lactase (the enzyme that helps to break down lactose which is found in milk). To help reduce these symptoms for someone with lactose intolerance, we would want to support the gut and optimize digestion with more lactase enzymes, bile acids, and hydrochloric acid (HCL) OR avoid milk products as much as possible. 

FOOD SENSITIVITY

A food sensitivity is known as a delayed food allergy and is very different from a true food allergy. Delayed reactions can affect any organ system in the body and can take anywhere from 45-minutes to 3+ days for symptoms to become apparent. The delayed onset of symptoms and physiological mechanisms involved in food sensitivities make them an especially difficult puzzle to try to solve, either on your own or with most laboratory serum test that your physician may order. This is one of the main reasons why food sensitivities often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. The treatments prescribed usually provide only temporary relief that masks the symptoms instead of addressing the root cause of the problem. Researchers and medical scientists don’t have all the answers to food sensitivities and we are still learning the clinical manifestations of how food sensitivities develop.

The following are the most common contributing factors that cause food sensitivities:

  • Poor digestion, assimilation, absorption, and elimination 
  • Unbalanced gut flora and microbiome
  • Overuse of medications, NSAIDS, steroids, and antibiotics
  • Chronic stress or severe trauma
  • Immune system overload (such as developing an autoimmune disease)
  • Genetics (such as MTHFR)
  • Toxin exposure to chemicals, molds, and heavy metals 

It’s important to note that a food sensitivity is not a life-threatening reaction. Food sensitivity symptoms develop over weeks, months, or years and can range from barely noticeable or mild to severe. The good news is food sensitivities are possible to heal!

SYMPTOMS OF FOOD SENSITIVITIES

Food sensitivities can present themselves in all sorts of ways, including:

  • Autoimmunity
  • Digestive upset
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Skin problems, like acne or eczema
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Nausea

Again, these symptoms can take time to develop. In fact, a food sensitivity reaction can occur anywhere from 1-3 days after exposure/consumption, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint the food culprit on your own. That’s when food sensitivity testing becomes invaluable! 

THE ROLE OF FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTS: TEST DON’T GUESS! 

The mystery symptoms of millions of Americans are linked to food sensitivities. Many common health problems are directly related to specific immune reactions to the foods we eat that activate an immune mediated response in the body. This is even true for “healthy” foods such as chicken, broccoli, or lemon that you would normally associate with an anti-inflammatory healthy diet. Even these foods can create symptoms in sensitive individuals. 

The first thing someone with food sensitivities needs to do is identify any trigger foods and food-chemicals. This is difficult to figure out on your own because food sensitivity reactions are often delayed by hours (IgA response), or even several days (IgG response) after ingestion. For this reason, it makes proper identification nearly impossible suggesting accurate testing (not all created equal with the technology to do this). 

Summary of food sensitivity testing explaining what a sensitivity is and how to test
BENEFITS OF FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTS

Autoimmune disease and gut health is directly correlated with food sensitivities. Identifying and addressing your food sensitivities is a key part to understanding and healing your autoimmunity. But despite common belief, food sensitivity tests alone are not the end-all-be-all. Nor, do they magically heal all your symptoms. However, they do serve as a powerful tool in healing your gut and reversing autoimmunity. It is an essential tool in the process! 

Food sensitivity tests pinpoint the specific foods that are creating inflammation in your body. As part of a gut-healing protocol (which is necessary for any autoimmune disease), temporarily removing these foods will aid in reducing inflammation and allow for the gut lining to heal. Without accurate food sensitivity testing, you’re left with a frustrating, confusing, and exhaustive game of trial and error.

HOW TO TEST FOR FOOD SENSITIVITIES

As a functional medicine practitioner, there is one food sensitivity test that is above all the rest. It’s the only one that I trust for accurate results. It’s the Mediator Release Test (MRT) and is the gold standard for properly identifying food sensitivities. 

The MRT, otherwise known as the mediator-release test, measures inflammatory markers within the body. Unlike most food sensitivity testing methods, the MRT “is a functional measurement of diet-induced sensitivity pathways. MRT simplifies a highly complex reaction and translates that into the most useable clinical information you can get – quantifying the inflammatory response to foods and food.”  

The MRT (Mediator Release Test) is the most accurate for food sensitivity testing
HOW DOES THE MRT TEST WORK? 

The Mediator Release Test is the only test offering 94% accuracy. Its ribbon technology accurately measure the mediator release in the blood. It identifies changes in the ratio of liquids to solids in your blood after exposure and incubates with the test substance to identify all reactions by your immune cells. This response will show that your immune cells released chemical mediators such as histamines, cytokines, or prostaglandins. It breaks down the positive reactions into reactive or moderately reactive categories. It also categorizes the no/low-reactive foods.. These results help us implement your phase 1 diet and will continue to serve as a home base for your phase 2 and phase 3 diet throughout your program and gut healing journey. 

The MRT is the best food sensitivity test on the market which identifies 170 food and chemical reactions that lead to Type 3 and 4 hyper-sensitivity pathway reactions. This can help you understand even the most mysterious food sensitivity related problems. This is why the LEAP MRT test has helped thousands of patients turn years of suffering with symptoms create an energetic, happy, healthy future that is free of the symptoms that once seemed part of a normal life! 

REMOVE FOOD SENSITIVITIES THE RIGHT WAY! 

The problem I see so often is that people are either getting food sensitivity tests that are not truly accurate and are just picking up foods they eat often. Another problem I see is that people will do food sensitivity testing and stay away from those foods long-term. This can lead to micronutrient deficiencies and disordered eating habits. 

Explanation of the elimination phase, a temporary period after food sensitivity testing to help heal your gut

Food sensitivity testing should always be part of a comprehensive plan and used as a tool to help individuals heal their gut and reach their health goals. In order to reap the benefits of food sensitivity testing, individuals should be working on healing their gut with the guidance of a licensed practitioner and an MRT Certified Leap Therapist (CLT) in conjunction with removing the foods for a period of time to reduce inflammation while getting to the root of other imbalances. Once the individual heals their gut the right way, they are able to bring most reactive foods back with ease and consume a varied diet again. 

People all over the world see improvements in numerous areas of their health linked to unknown food sensitivities. The main benefits I see in practice are higher energy, better digestion, boosts in mood, brain function, skin health, weight loss, and pain reduction. 

NEXT STEPS

In my personalized coaching programs, I use the MRT to identify and remove the food triggers holding people back from feeling their best. Although temporary, this stage is vital and necessary! In addition to food sensitivity testing, my programs include an essential and custom gut-healing protocol in combination with these personalized results. Luckily for you, we are currently enrolling new clients! So, if you’re interested in healing your gut and reversing autoimmunity, you can apply here and set up your free Discovery Call!

Without a doubt, food sensitivities can leave you feeling less than optimal. But with the help of a true and tested food sensitivity test, you can get to the bottom of your food triggers, begin healing your gut, and reverse autoimmunity!  

Food sensitivity testing in action
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"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."

-Nikki Yelton, RD

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