There has been a stark rise in the number of people who feel like they may have some kind of food intolerance in recent years. The reason behind this might be to do with diets, self-diagnosis culture or even changes in the environment – we don’t fully know. Accompanying this rise in self perception of food intolerance is a rise in the number of companies offering testing solutions that patients can use at home.
The Intolerance Lab food allergy testing kits that produce results very quickly indeed and that claim to be able to offer patients comprehensive knowledge of their various intolerances. These kits have drawn some skepticism from dietitians and scientists, who doubt the scientific accuracy of tests that are not done under scientific conditions.
With this in mind, lets unpick some of the technology that these food intolerance tests use, so that you can make your own mind up and peruse your own research before choosing an intolerance test to take. It is worth noting that intolerance is not the same as allergy. Allergies are autoimmune reactions to materials and can result in anaphylaxis. If you feel yourself having a severe reaction to a food, don’t wait until you can get a private test – see your doctor, who will advise you on whether to see a specialist or cut foods out of your diet.
What Is A Food Intolerance?
According to Women’s Health magazine, up to 20 Percent of the world’s population have food intolerances. Intolerances are characterized by an inability or difficulty in digesting certain materials. They can lead to bloating, gastric pain, fatigue, rashes and headaches. Food intolerances are typically less pronounced than allergies, with the symptoms gradually building up over time. This is what makes them so hard to discern and identify. It is often hard to tell whether you are bloated and tired all the time because of an intolerance or because of another underlying illness.
How Do Commercial Intolerance Tests Work?
There is some debate about the efficacy of home testing kits, although they are certainly useful for helping patients decide on their next steps. At home tests work by exposing a sample of your blood or hair to different foods. The kit then measures the amount of antibodies produced by your body in reaction to each food. The problem with this is that we all produce antibodies to many foods during our lifetime, even if we are unlikely to ever develop symptoms of intolerance. This can lead to ‘false positives’. If you are getting a test to check for intolerances at home, it can be worth taking two or taking your results to a doctor, who will be able to perform more rigorous testing.
Avoid testing that uses hair alone as a sample. It is scientifically impossible to determine whether a person has an intolerance to food based on measurements of antibodies in the hair without comparing it to blood samples and actual records of symptoms.