Food sensitivity is a broad term used to encompass any minor allergy, intolerance, or reaction to certain ingredients in food. Nowadays, it’s commonly heard in reference to foods such as dairy, gluten, or soy. Food sensitivities may trigger any number of physical symptoms, including headaches, nausea, digestive issues, or skin flare-ups. These symptoms tend to be unpleasant, but are generally not life-threatening.
While “food sensitivity” remains an uncertain diagnosis, a trained health practitioner will be able to perform a range of different tests in order to narrow down the potential source of a reaction. If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of tests, their uses, and their limitations, read on for an overview of this topic.
Types of Food Sensitivity Tests for Those in Nutrition and Health Programs to Know About
A food sensitivity takes place in the digestive system, and occurs when a person is unable to break down the food due to a particular ingredient or chemical it contains. In contrast, a food allergy involves immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies of your immune system and tends to produce a far more serious reaction. In order to identify the cause of the reaction – and to distinguish an allergy from a sensitivity – there are a number of different tests you can perform:
- Elimination tests – potentially problematic foods are removed from the diet
- Antibody tests – checks for the presence of IgG antibodies
- Cell tests – measures a change in white blood cells when exposed to food antigens
Elimination tests are usually followed by a “diet challenge,” in which the eliminated foods are slowly reintroduced to the body one by one in order to determine a reaction. Those in nutrition and health training will learn methods of diagnosis in order to develop new nutrition plans for patients.
Food Sensitivity Tests Have Their Limitations
For students of nutrition and health programs, it’s important to understand that “food sensitivity” is not an official diagnosis, as it can be difficult to verify the accuracy of tests. Unlike allergies, which trigger more immediate reactions, food sensitivities often produce a delayed response in the body. The symptoms tend to develop over time and can be relatively minor. The person may experience slight stomach pains or indigestion. For that reason, the exact cause of food sensitivities can be difficult to pinpoint.
Additionally, health professionals may encounter discrepancies in test results. One possible reason for this is that food sensitivity tests generally rely on extracts from raw foods. This fails to account for the fact that new antigens are created when food is cooked or processed, which could be the cause of the reaction. In order to verify the accuracy of a test, the results should be cross-checked with the person’s physical reaction when they eat the food.
The Results of Food Sensitivity Tests Can Change Over Time
It’s important to note that the results of a food sensitivity test are not set in stone. Food sensitivities can adapt and evolve over time depending on changes to your diet. As such, test results from some time ago may no longer reflect a body’s current state.
Additionally, reactions may not be consistent, even in response to the same food. They often change over time in response to stress levels and depending on the individual’s overall health. This should be kept in mind when imposing dietary restrictions in response to test results.
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