Food Allergies and Intolerances: Why I Decided to Get Tested
Today I am going to discuss the much talked about topic of food. More specifically food allergies and intolerances and why I decided to get tested for these.
There seems to be a never-ending debate on diet and which foods we should and shouldn’t eat. Some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want with little consequences while others break out into hives or gain 5 lbs just by looking at the wrong foods. Well, not really but you know what I mean. Haha! But, seriously why is this? If you are one of those people that have been asking yourself – why me? You are not alone.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. Nothing in this post is intended to treat or diagnose. This is purely informational. Always consult a qualified physician for medical advice and/or treatment. This post also does NOT include any affiliate links. The product/service mentioned I paid for with my own money and I am reviewing it solely with the intention that it may be helpful or at the very least interesting.
What are Food Allergies and Intolerances?
This is a subject I had a lot of confusion on. In researching these two subjects I have learned the following – the main difference between food allergies and intolerances is that allergies tend to be hereditary and something you have to deal with for the rest of your life. If you have an allergy to a certain food your immune system overreacts to the protein found in that particular food even if only a small amount is ingested.
Symptoms can range from mild to moderate –
- Red, swollen, dry or itchy skin, rashes (as in hives or eczema)
- Runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or a dry cough
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy mouth or itching inside the ear
- Funny taste in the mouth
- Upset stomach, cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea
To more severe symptoms –
- Trouble breathing and/or swallowing
- Swollen eyes, lips, tongue, or throat
- Feeling weak, confused, or light-headed, or even passing out
- Chest pains or a weak, irregular heartbeat
If you truly have an allergy these symptoms usually show up pretty quickly if not immediately. Common allergens include – dairy (milk, cheese), wheat, corn, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish.
On the other hand, a food intolerance or sensitivity occurs when a person has trouble digesting a particular food. This can lead to stomach upset, gas, bloating, abdominal pain or diarrhea. While the symptoms of a sensitivity are similar to the mild symptoms of a food allergy they don’t always occur right away like they do if you are allergic.
In some cases, an adverse reaction doesn’t appear until several days later. So I can see why it is easy to get the two confused. Sensitivities can lead to a state of chronic inflammation within the body which can then lead to weight gain and other unpleasant physical situations.
Why I Got Tested
I have been dealing with chronic inflammation, digestive issues, and hormonal imbalances for years. I eat organic and have been taking lots of different supplements to try and keep everything in check but so far all the steps I have taken and other various tests (blood, urine, saliva) just haven’t been enough. I had definitely found myself in the realm of – why me??? So instead of getting down in the dumps about it, I decided to take a moment and really look at my medical history in a new unit of time with fresh eyes.
After doing this I came to the realization that all of my physical problems began as soon as I stopped breastfeeding and began to consume regular foods. I remembered that as a toddler having stomach aches, gas, bloating, constipation and that as I got older my symptoms got worse and it all just kind of snowballed from there.
My original symptoms are all signs of possible food allergies or intolerances. Why I was never tested for this earlier I have no clue. It could be that I did a bad job of explaining my symptoms to the doctors I have seen or that they were just incompetent. The good news is that I finally got a clue! Haha. As the saying goes hindsight is 20/20.
Throughout the years I have learned that you can’t just blindly hand your health over to someone else even if they are a licensed physician. No one knows your body better than you do. My health is ultimately my personal responsibility.
To quote good old Uncle Ben from Spiderman – with great power comes great responsibility.
I did think about doing an elimination diet however as I mentioned above if you have a food sensitivity the symptoms don’t always present themselves right away which can make finding the culprit very tricky. I am tired of playing needle in the haystack with my health so for me, the best option was to get more testing.
Which Test Did I Choose and Why?
There are quite a few options out there when it comes to allergy testing. I am not a huge fan of needles and have already had my fair share of pokes and prods so I set out to find the best test I could. I had three main criteria when searching which were –
- Not too expensive
- Least painful method
This ultimately lead me to – testmyallergy.com (this is not an affiliate link)
At Test My Allergy they use hair samples instead of blood or other bodily fluids. Hair analysis has been around for a long time now. It is used to check forensic DNA, nutrient deficiencies and even for drugs. You are probably wondering how accurate hair testing is and how it compares to the blood tests that are usually performed when checking for allergies. I was too so of course, I looked into this before taking the plunge with the hair analysis.
The truth is that no test is 100% accurate. When testing blood your doctor will be looking for IgE mediated allergies and this will only produce results listing reactions in the immunoglobulin (Y shaped cells in the immune) system. These are estimated to make up only 2% of all allergies.
On the flip side, a hair sample test is examining changes at a cellular level because the latest science shows that up to 43% of allergies are in fact a reaction in T cells. Since the two tests are measuring totally different reactions they will produce totally different results.
Per the FAQ on their site –
You may have come across allergy tests that require blood or urine samples. However, these are superseded by more advanced alternatives which are proven to be more accurate and effective at getting a positive potential allergen match.
The problem with urine and blood tests is that they can be affected by a number of factors. These can range from food consumed to periods of stress. They also do not analyze the effects at a cellular or genetic level in the way that hair testing can. Hair samples also do not deteriorate after being taken, unlike blood.
Hair testing is widely used as a proven method in the medical and sports profession. It is fast, efficient and leads to more accurate results.
- 600 foods, non-food items, food additives (E-numbers) and nutrition tested
- Downloadable submission form to send with your hair sample
- A full PDF report emailed to your inbox detailing your results
- An in-depth and helpful guide on how to perform an elimination diet
- 220 food items including fruit, vegetable, wheat, alcohol, eggs and dairy items.
- 145 non-food items including grass, pollen, plants and common pet hair.
- 250 food additives (E-numbers) found in common products Worldwide.
PLUS 80 different nutrients including vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A – K, copper, Iron, magnesium, dental amalgam, gold, and silver This test shows the vitamins and nutrients which are needed in the diet and advises you on which you will need to increase within your diet.
So yeah, it’s a lot! (and I apologize for the formatting errors above. I was experiencing technical difficulties with WordPress and rather than re-typing my entire post I decided to just leave it be)
So far so good! After submitting my payment I received confirmation and welcome emails almost immediately. The reason the cost of these tests are so low is that they don’t come with a bunch of fancy packaging and other bells and whistles. I personally am totally okay with that. Because let’s be honest those fancy boxes just ultimately end up in the recycle bin.
After reading through the instructions provided I downloaded the submission form pictured below and proceeded to fill it out. It was all very straightforward and easy to understand.
I then collected my hair samples. I have fairly long hair that sheds a lot so all I had to do was comb my fingers through my hair and voila! I then placed said hairs into a small plastic sandwich baggy (see below) that I labeled as per the instructions (the full label is not pictured here for security reasons since it contained my personal info and order number).
I then popped the form and the samples in the mail. I was responsible for the postage fees when mailing it all off which was fine. It cost me less than $5. It would have cost me less than $2 if I hadn’t paid extra for tracking. I didn’t want to take any chances so for me it was worth paying a little more to ensure that my samples arrive at the testing facility.
My package will arrive on Monday, April 2nd and I will get my results within 7-10 business days via email. I am really hoping to get some good answers and insight from this. Fingers crossed! And this is where I am going to end off for now. Stay tuned for my next post in which I will discuss my test results and what my thoughts are on them and where I will be going from there.
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Ta-ta for now!