Have you ever wondered if you have a food sensitivity? Most people have a sneaking suspicion that something in their diet isn't agreeing with them. Digestive issues, headaches, and acne are common symptoms–but figuring out the culprit can feel like a never-ending game of "Guess Who?”.
Are you sensitive to bread? Cheese? Or even worse – bread and cheese? Don’t kiss your cheesy garlic knots goodbye just yet! It's time to stop guessing and finally get the answers you’re looking for.
We sat down with our Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Saira Kassam, to learn all about food sensitivity tests. We’ll be covering the difference between food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies, how an FST works, and how to figure out if you might need one.
What is a food sensitivity?
Let’s start off with the basics: what’s a food sensitivity? Is it the same thing as a food allergy? Here’s a breakdown of each.
When you have a food allergy, your body reacts immediately. Your immune system identifies the allergen as a foreign invader, so it sends antibodies (known as immunoglobulin E) to attack it. Common symptoms can include difficulty breathing, skin reactions, a runny nose, or digestive problems. Saira explains that you can think of a food allergy as an IgE reaction.
When you have a food sensitivity, your body won’t necessarily react right away. If you eat something you’re sensitive to on Monday, you might not feel the effects until later in the week. Your immune system is still responding to the “foreign invader”, but instead it reacts by sending out immunoglobulin G antibodies. Common symptoms can include things like digestive issues, headaches, eczema, acne, joint pain, and weight issues. Saira says that a food sensitivity is known as an IgG reaction.
What about a food intolerance? Is it the same as an allergy or sensitivity? Not exactly. The main difference is that the reaction happens in the gut, not the immune system. When someone has a food intolerance, it means they’re unable to digest certain foods. The most common example is lactose intolerance, which many people experience as they get older. Research even suggests that only 35% of adults can digest lactose once they’re older than seven or eight!
Understanding what sets a food sensitivity apart from an allergy or intolerance can help you rule out what you might be dealing with.
Food sensitivity symptoms
Now that we’ve covered the difference between allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances, let’s take a deeper look at the signs that you might have a food sensitivity. Symptoms can vary from one person to the next, but some of the most common are:
- Headaches or migraines
- Skin issues, like eczema and acne
- Joint pain
- Weight fluctuations
- Abdominal pain and/or bloating
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
Oftentimes, people with digestive problems will assume they have a food sensitivity. But contrary to popular belief, gut issues aren’t an immediate sign that you should get an FST right away.
“The one big thing about food sensitivities I always say is that it’s not for everyone,” Saira says. “If you’re having digestive problems, you don’t necessarily need the food sensitivity test.” That’s because in most cases, a Naturopathic Doctor will try to uncover the root cause of your digestive issues before they recommend an FST.
Remember those IgG antibodies we talked about? When your immune system releases them, it also causes chronic inflammation. “This makes it tricky because if you have too much inflammation in the gut, doing a FST won’t make sense because everything is going to come up,’ she explains. “The best time to do an FST is once you’ve resolved that chronic inflammation in the gut so when you do that test, it’ll show your true sensitivities.”
Working with a Naturopathic Doctor like Saira will give you the opportunity to receive one-on-one care and a targeted treatment plan to minimize your symptoms. She’ll learn more about your lifestyle and overall health before deciding what next steps could look like. We wrote more about treating digestive issues naturally in this blog post - but for now, we’ll continue on the topic of FST’s by explaining how they work.
Food sensitivity blood test
“The test we do at HealthOne is the RMT FSA igT Food Sensitivity Test by Rocky Mountain Analytical,” says Saira, “And there are different panels we can do. One panel tests for 222 different foods, and there are also vegetarian and vegan panels that exclude certain animal products.”
It’s important to note that a food must be in your system in order for it to show up in the FST results. For example, if you haven’t eaten shellfish since last year at the work Christmas party, there won’t be any antibodies in your blood for the test to pick up.
Rocky Mountain recommends consuming 2 servings/week of the suspected foods for 2-3 weeks before the test for accurate results. If you haven’t eaten a particular food for over 6 months, aim for 2 servings/week for 6 weeks. You can speak with your practitioner beforehand about which foods you have/haven’t consumed recently so you can properly prepare for your test.
After you go in for your blood test, your doctor will receive the results within 7-10 days. Then, they’ll go over the results with you so you understand exactly what you are and aren’t sensitive to.
Naturopath food sensitivity testing
Saira explains how the RMT FSA test is broken down: “Green means the food is good to go and you don’t have a sensitivity. Yellow means you have a partial sensitivity, and red is very sensitive.”
Every category of food is covered in the enhanced panel–from fish, seafood, meat and dairy to specific things like herbs, spices, and even coffee!
Once you receive your results, it can bring up a lot of different emotions. It can be exciting–and even validating–if you’ve been stumped about your symptoms for a while. At the same time, learning the facts can also be overwhelming. If your favourite food is labelled in red, does that mean it’s goodbye forever?
“A lot of people think it means they can never eat those foods again, which is a really common misconception about the FST,” Saira says. The reality is that most patients are instructed to eliminate the red and yellow foods for only 2-3 months.
“The goal of the FST is to remove what you’re sensitive to, thus reducing inflammation in the gut,” she adds. “Once we do that, you can actually bring the foods back in. It’s a slow process, but you can definitely bring them back in one by one. You don’t have to never eat them again!”
Where can I get a food sensitivity test done?
Once you have a referral from a Naturopathic or Medical doctor, you can go to any LifeLabs to get your FST done. Whether you live downtown near our clinic or elsewhere in the GTA, you can use this tool to find the most convenient location for you.
Food sensitivity test Toronto
At the end of the day, food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. We should all be able to eat without experiencing uncomfortable symptoms. Whether you deal with digestive issues, skin problems, or just want to know more about your body, getting a food sensitivity test done is definitely worth considering.
First and foremost, a good Naturopathic Doctor will try to identify the root cause of your troubles. Yes, an FST can help–but it’s only a part of the puzzle. Understanding more about your lifestyle from a holistic point of view will help Saira develop the best treatment plan for your unique needs.
Ready to start your journey to improved health and wellness? Book a complimentary 15-minute Meet & Greet with our ND to find out how she can help you.
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