Food sensitivity tests: Legitimate investment or waste of money?

Data pix.

DENVER -- A simple test can pinpoint foods that could be causing fatigue, bloating and other annoying symptoms. At least that’s what some online companies claim about their food sensitivity tests. But some medical experts and groups have serious questions about the tests' legitimacy.

Online startup EverlyWell sells an at-home food sensitivity test for $160. The test shows how an individual’s body reacts to the food people eat every day.

We asked our FOX31 and Channel 2 News producer Morgan Pawl to give the over-the-counter test a try.

“I think it will be good because I’ve been focusing more on what I’ve been eating. It’ll be interesting to see the results,” said Pawl.

Pawl received her results via email. Her results showed she had a high reactivity to egg whites and a moderate reactivity to mushrooms.

According to Everlywell’s website, a person's blood is tested for levels for Immunoglobulin G (IgG), a kind of antibody. The results show IgG responses to 96 common foods. The website also says “studies suggest that an igg immune response may contribute to headaches, joint pain, eczema, and other chronic conditions.”

But medical experts say that’s not exactly accurate.

“It doesn’t mean you are intolerant to that food. It just means that your body had a reaction, like saying, ‘Yep, that food, I ate it! It exists'," explained Swedish Medical Center registered dietitian Adrienne Bacon. "It’s a normal, healthy response that anybody is going to have."

National Jewish Health pediatric allergist BJ Lanser expressed concerns about the tests.

“Until we have the science to support their claims, I think, unfortunately, you are misleading the public,” Lanser said.

In fact, three major medical groups: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, all advise against taking the test.

Meanwhile, Pawl followed instructions she received from EverlyWell. She started an elimination diet. First, she stopped eating egg whites.

“I really didn’t notice a change -- like, no physical reaction. I didn’t feel any different when I stopped eating them,” Pawl explained.

Then, she removed mushrooms from her diet.

“When I did eat them on a couple of occasions, immediately afterwards, like clockwork, my stomach was upset and bubbly. I took those out and didn’t have any symptoms,” said Pawl.

Knowing there are serious disagreements about the legitimacy of food sensitivity tests, we asked Pawl what she thinks.

“Whether it’s true or if the whole mushroom thing is in my brain, who knows? If anything, it just made me think about what I am putting in my body more, just in general. Do I think it’s worth the price tag? I’m not sure. Jury is still out!” she said.

Something both EverlyWell and medical experts can agree on, is to consult with a doctor about any symptoms.

They also point out a food sensitivity is not a food allergy, which can be life threatening.

EverlyWell sent the following statement in response to our story:

“IgG testing for food sensitivities is supported by a body of research linking it to symptoms like stomach issues, headaches, joint pain, fatigue and more. IgG food sensitivity testing has existed for over a decade and is ordered by thousands of doctors and healthcare professionals in the U.S. every year. We have customers tell us every day that this test was the first step in identifying the “problem foods” that were impacting their health. Our food sensitivity test results are meant to help narrow down which foods in your regular diet are causing symptoms. It's natural that some of the foods you eat with greater regularity would show up on your list of reactive foods."

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