“For years I’ve just lived with an upset stomach,” Tina Gregory told Woman’s World. “It just became normal for me. It was always there.”
So when she first saw an ad for at-home food sensitivity testing, she was intrigued. Then she happened to be talking to a friend near her home in Oklahoma who had struggled with food sensitivity for years. She explained that pinpointing and eliminating her most challenging foods made a huge difference in her overall physical and mental health. She thought maybe it could help her, too.
Gregory suspected she might have food allergies before, but she always talked herself out of digging deeper by saying her symptoms weren’t that bad. But the at-home test seemed like a good option, so she did some research and signed up for the hair follicle test from Allergy Test for about $80. The test kit was mailed to her right away, and she received her results about a month later.
“The items I discovered I was allergic to that made the largest impact for me were lettuce, chicken, and Brussels sprouts, along with a sensitivity to wheat and barley,” says Gregory. “When people are trying to scan their own diet and see if they can figure out what might be making them feel tired or get a stomachache, it’s challenging. Never would I ever have considered removing these.”
By identifying the culprits, Gregory was able to eliminate some foods and see some results right away. She says lettuce was her most sensitive food, and when she got rid of it, a lot of her stomach aches and inflammation disappeared. Just to think all those salads she ate trying to be healthy?
“If you have minimal allergies you might see these tests as a waste of money, but for someone like me who was having issues and couldn’t pinpoint it, it was life-changing,” she says. “I never knew I could eat and not have a severe stomachache.”
Not only that, but Gregory says it also helped put her on a path for understanding food better, leading to improved nutrition and weight loss.
Food Sensitivity and Weight Loss
Dieticians tend to be cautious when correlating food sensitivity to weight gain because they don’t want to encourage people to focus on a single factor. They always encourage diet and exercise to be part of the overall discussion, so they don’t want patients looking for an excuse or way out. However, for those who have tried multiple weight loss programs or who continually struggle, it can give them the hope of finally finding answers.
Heidi Moretti, of The Healthy RD, is a registered dietician who strongly believes in the power of herbs and food as medicine. “Food sensitivities can and do cause immune issues in the body, resulting in inflammation, altered microbiome, and even leaky gut,” she says. “It’s in this context that food sensitivities can drive weight gain.”
One area she receives a lot of questions about specifically is gluten. “Food chemicals like gluten can create opiate-like chemicals in the body, which ramps up food cravings and food intake,” explains Moretti. “A gluten sensitivity may cause inflammation throughout the body, even in the nervous system and gut. Inflammation can slow down weight loss efforts or cause weight gain by impairing mitochondrial function.”
Let a Professional Guide You
While a lot of people tend to want to go straight to testing, Moretti says she actually prefers to explore other options like an elimination diet, which can be more effective for identification and treatment of food sensitivities in many cases.
“I highly recommend seeking out a dietitian that is trained in elimination diets, perhaps a dietitian trained in functional nutrition,” she says. “I have had a lot of success with clients weight and well-being; it is empowering and helpful to feel better and promote energy and well being along with healthy weight.”
Even if you do try an at-home kit, Moretti suggests doing so under the guidance of a professional who is able to help interpret the results and take further action if needed.
Ruth Pupo Garcia, a registered dietician trained in weight management at Adventist Health in Los Angeles, says we have to remember that these tests show only one view of something that is usually a much bigger issue. “Often we want answers so that we can better understand/treat our illnesses,” she says. “We must remember that weight problems and obesity are multifactorial conditions, and that healthy lifestyle and behavior usually make the best impact.”
In other words, testing can identify problems and genetic challenges, but there’s no magic, single answer. Once you figure out issues or sensitivities, there are many other factors that come into play as you work to find solutions.
It’s a First Step
As far as the tests popping up all over the place, Garcia says she’s actually impressed with many of them. Though she strongly echoes Moretti’s advice. “Those at-home tests may have some accuracy and technology is starting to look promising,” she says. “However, you should follow-up with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.”
This is exactly what Gregory did. Her at-home test gave her food sensitivity and allergy suggestions by color with red being the top concern, so she went to her doctor to figure out next steps. This included removing lettuce altogether and being cautious to several others.
Since then, Gregory has lost more than 30 pounds, and she’s had much better success at maintaining her ideal weight. And more importantly, she says, she just feels better overall — no more stomach aches.
“I’m so grateful I was finally able to identify some sensitivities that I had suspected for quite some time,” she says. “It cleared up a lot of problems for me, and I’m so glad I tried one.”
It’s important to remember that not all tests are created equal. If you’re looking for an at-home test, really take a closer look at how they test and what they’re testing for. Also, take time to read up on the company and their reviews online. You never know — a similar test at your doctor’s office might be covered with insurance.
No matter what, have a conversation with a pro, preferably before testing, but definitely after so he or she can guide you in the right direction.