Eating dairy has never made me feel my best. Has it for anyone? No one has uttered, “I feel like running a marathon after eating brie and parmesan.” When I took a DNA test for diet and fitness a few years ago, I got confirmation that I am lactose intolerant. No surprise there. While anytime I’ve cut out dairy, I’ve felt much better, there was still more to learn. Some foods would make me feel lethargic or upset my stomach, but they weren’t as easy to point out as dairy. I was experiencing constant fatigue and an upset stomach, so I decided to take an at-home food sensitivity test from Everlywell to try and pinpoint the cause. The finger prick test takes a few minutes, and once they’ve received your sample, your results are delivered in as early as two days. It couldn’t have been easier.
But first—food sensitivity isn’t the same thing as food intolerance or allergies, and it’s important to note the differences. Registered dietitian Sheena Batura, MS, RDN, LD breaks them down below.
“Food sensitivities involve your body’s immune reaction to specific foods and are linked with a host of symptoms that are uncomfortable, but not deadly,” she explains. “Many people turn to food sensitivity testing to investigate symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues, migraines, fatigue, headaches, skin issues and joint pain, to name a few.” On the other hand, she notes that food allergies are mediated by a different antibody in the immune system than food sensitivities. “Food allergy reactions are typically immediate and can range from minor to life-threatening,” she says. “Common symptoms include itching, swelling and wheezing.”
She adds, “One of the common tests for food allergies involves placing a small amount of a potentially allergenic food onto a patient’s skin then pricking their skin with a needle to see an allergic reaction is observed. This is repeated dozens of times with dozens of different foods. For obvious reasons, this type of testing should only be administered by a professional.”
And lastly, food intolerances. “Food intolerances can occur when your body doesn’t have enough of the right enzyme to break down a particular food.,” Batura explains. “Lactose intolerance is an example many people are familiar with: being deficient in the enzyme lactase can make it difficult for many people to digest dairy products, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, stomach cramps, flatulence or indigestion.”
How Everlywell Works
The Everlywell test is meant to help you find out food sensitivities, and is helpful for anyone who suspects the foods they’re eating might be causing symptoms like stomach aches, bloating, gastrointestinal distress, migraines, fatigue or skin issues, or for anyone who has been instructed to undergo a temporary elimination diet but feels overwhelmed by the idea of cutting out large categories of food from their diet.
The kit included a finger prick tool called a lancet, alcohol wipes, a small card to collect blood on, and a biohazard bag for returning the sample. After washing your hands, and disinfecting a finger of your choice (I went with my index finger), you hold your finger over the card and blot blood into small circles without touching the paper. It’s like filling a Scantron in the third grade. It’s the same kind of finger prick if you’ve ever—or have seen someone—test blood sugar levels. It’s so quick that you don’t have time to process the puncture. It’s super easy and to make it even simpler, there’s a step-by-step video. Once they receive your sample, your results are delivered in as early as two days.
Who Is Everlywell For?
Dr. Batura explains that this test may be helpful for anyone who suspects that the foods they eat may be causing symptoms like stomach aches, bloating, gastrointestinal distress, migraines, fatigue or skin issues, or for anyone who has been instructed to undergo a temporary elimination diet but feels overwhelmed by the idea of cutting out large categories of food from their diet (such as dairy, nuts, fruits, grains… the list goes on).
My Everlywell Results
Within a few days, I received a text message that my results were ready. The results were clear and informative. It explained that I didn’t show any high or moderate reactivity to any foods. And if I were interested in the list of foods that I had normal reactivity to, those were available too.
I learned that I did have mild reactivity to four foods: chicken, eggplant, garlic and lima bean. Through experience I already knew garlic and I weren’t a good match. But chicken? Chicken I was not expecting. It’s my go-to protein and a significant part of my diet. To my shock, of the foods I reacted to, chicken was highest on the scale. For these foods, the website wrote, “Mild reactivity foods (Class 1 foods in your lab results) create a smaller immune reaction, but they can be sneaky symptom-causers.” Which they were!
For a food sensitivity test to be most effective however, it should be followed by a temporary food elimination diet.
“Taking a food sensitivity test before undertaking a temporary elimination diet is a helpful way to narrow your focus to an individually tailored list of foods that elicit an immune response in your body, rather than having to do a lot of guesswork or cut out dozens of foods from your diet,” shares Batura. “Here’s an example. Let's say your results come back and you're highly reactive to yeast and egg yolks. Instead of undertaking a traditional elimination diet where someone might normally cut out dairy, nuts, grains and soy, you can instead focus on a few foods more likely to be causing your symptoms.”
While it hasn’t been long enough for me to fully see results, I have minimized my consumption of the foods my body reacted to. As one would expect, I’ve been feeling so much better.