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At-Home Food Sensitivity Testing: Yay Or Nay?

At-home food sensitivity testing kits have gained popularity, promising a convenient and easy way to identify potential food sensitivities. These kits typically involve collecting a sample, such as blood or saliva, and sending it off to a lab for analysis. But, the reliability and accuracy of these tests have been a topic of debate among healthcare professionals–and for good reason. 

We’ll find out if these easy food sensitivity kits for moms are really worth all the hype. We’ve uncovered the facts, so you don’t have to. Keep reading for an in-depth analysis of what food sensitivity is, how at-home tests work, and their pros and cons.

Defining Food Sensitivity

Food sensitivity is a loose term describing how people react to certain foods. When someone says they have a food sensitivity, they usually experience negative reactions after eating a specific food, like an upset stomach, gas, and diarrhea. Interestingly enough, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, food sensitivity is not an official medical diagnosis, as it has no medical definition.

Food sensitivity vs. food intolerance 

There is a fine line between food sensitivities and intolerances. As we learned earlier, food sensitivity is a very flexible term not recognized by doctors–describing negative feelings after eating certain foods like stomach pain, gas, or diarrhea.

But when you have a food intolerance, your body actually lacks a specific stomach enzyme needed to digest certain foods. In most cases, people with food intolerances can still eat small amounts of these irritating foods. But, when they have too much, their body will react. People with food intolerances experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas and bloating, headaches or migraines, heartburn, and nausea.

How Do At-Home Food Sensitivity Tests Work?

These DIY food sensitivity kits typically involve a very straightforward process: Collecting your own sample, sending it off for laboratory analysis, and getting back your results. Here’s what you can expect from the entire process.

Part 1: Sample Collection – the sample collection process usually involves a simple skin prick test, stool, or saliva sample, depending on the specific kit. At-home kits provide detailed instructions on properly collecting your sample to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the results.

Part 2: Laboratory Analysis – once your sample is collected, you will package it up and mail it to a laboratory, where it will go through testing. Depending on your testing method, laboratory technicians look at levels of certain antibodies or bacteria associated with immune responses to specific foods.

Part 3: Results – after the laboratory analysis, you’ll typically receive your results along with some sort of guideline for understanding your findings. Most of these guideline packets will help you get to know your sensitivities and provide recommendations on dietary modifications.

Are At-Home Food Sensitivity Tests Accurate?

This answer can really be a mixed bag. With brands marketing themselves as 99% accurate and claiming to pinpoint foods you’re sensitive to, why wouldn’t it be? Despite that, we’ve also found a handful of registered dietitians who say at-home food sensitivity tests aren’t accurate diagnostic tools for pointing out sensitivities. “None of these tests have reliably shown any efficacy, so they’re likely a waste of money,” notes Abbey Sharp, RD, a registered dietitian, on her patient blog.

Examples of At-Home Food Sensitivity Tests

Let’s take a look at some popular and seemingly reliable food sensitivity kits you can do right from home.

1. Everlywell Food Sensitivity Comprehensive Test

Key Features:

  • Easy finger prick testing kit
  • Includes an instructional video to guide you through collection
  • Results are available digitally or as a printable booklet

More than one million people have trusted Everlywell with their at-home testing. As a leader in the space, you can expect an easy-to-follow collection process, streamlined laboratory analysis, and results with tailored suggestions on what to do next. Just order a kit, collect a sample of your blood via a quick finger prick, and send it back in pre-paid packaging. Testers usually get their results within weeks. With an extensive database of 204 identifiable foods, this test is ideal for people who eat a variety of cuisines.

2. Living DNA Wellbeing Kit

Key Features:

  • An easy and convenient cheek swab testing method
  • 2-in-1 testing kit includes food sensitivity and ancestry DNA results
  • Results also include nutrition, exercise, and recovery advice

Living DNA’s Wellbeing Kit uses DNA to understand genetics’ role in your diet and lifestyle choices. Order a kit, swab the inside of your cheek, mail it off, and get results in six to eight weeks. With this kit, you will learn how different foods, vitamins, and exercises affect your body. Plus, get personal continental ancestry findings along with your food sensitivity results; it’s a 2-for-1 kit!

3. Viome Gut Intelligence Test

Key Features:

  • 400+ foods are tested, labeled, and grouped for easy reader-digestibility
  • Also includes personal recommendations for supplements to address gut health
  • Results are typically ready within only two to three weeks

Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test is for those who want to monitor and address imbalances or health symptoms related to poor gut health. All you have to do is send them a small stool sample, and you’ll get detailed results within two to three weeks of over 400 analyzed foods. There are four categories based on your food results: Avoid, minimize, enjoy, and superfood status. Not only that, but you will also get personalized supplements, probiotics, and prebiotics recommendations to heal your gut faster. 

Pros of At-Home Food Sensitivity Tests

If you like the convenience of testing yourself, then an at-home food sensitivity test might be for you. There’s just something about not dealing with the doctor’s office that many people prefer. Overall, at-home food sensitivity tests have many advantages. Here’s a complete list:

  • They are convenient
  • No need to make a doctor’s appointment or go into the office
  • You’re able to get a kit in only a couple of days
  • You can collect samples in the privacy of your own home
  • The results are typically fast, within weeks
  • Can be a starting point into learning more about your gut health 

Cons of At-Home Food Sensitivity Tests

It’s also important to look at the possible negatives with at-home food sensitivity tests. With experts not agreeing on whether they’re reliable, choosing to go with an at-home test can be a tough decision. Here are all the cons of at-home food sensitivity testing to consider.

  • These tests might not be 100 percent accurate or reliable
  • They can be pretty costly, ranging from $100 to $400, and typically not covered by insurance 
  • Results might persuade you to start restricting foods that you actually don’t need to

When You Should See a Doctor

If you’re experiencing persistent digestive symptoms such as severe pain, abnormal bloating, regular diarrhea, or any other related health issues, it’s best to consult a doctor. By collaborating with your healthcare professional, you can receive comprehensive testing, personalized advice, and the support you need to manage your food sensitivities effectively.

While at-home food sensitivity testing kits may offer convenience and a glimpse into potential food irritations, it’s essential to recognize their limitations and know when it’s time to seek professional medical advice. These tests might be a helpful starting point, but they shouldn’t replace the expertise of a qualified healthcare provider or dietitian.