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Truths of Getting A Food Sensitivity Test: How to ID Problem Foods

Inflammation Circuit

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD; Jeremy Lam, MD

One of the main problems of any food sensitivity test is exactly what it measures. "Food sensitivity" does not constitute a recognized medical condition. Thus, this makes any food sensitivity test almost automatically questionable. Any definition of food sensitivity typically contains such broad characteristics as to call any response you may have to food a "sensitivity."

Regardless of this, many companies offer blood tests to measure your sensitivity to a wide variety of foods. And the ability of these tests to measure what they purport to measure is questionable.

These food sensitivity tests come with long lists of foods that you may be sensitive to. Often, the test makers claim that finding and eliminating hidden food sensitivities can relieve you of all kinds of health problems. Among those health problems are headaches, chronic pain, weight problems, and digestive disorders.

And some evidence suggests food sensitivities may lead to some actual health issues. However, any food sensitivity test thus far produced likely does not measure actual sensitivity to foods.

Definitions in A Food Sensitivity Test

Tests must define what they are testing for, in order for the test to qualify as a positive test. The following definitions should help clarify.


Food allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a protein in a certain food or group of foods. Your immune system identifies this protein as a harmful substance and makes antibodies to deal with it. A range of symptoms appears such as skin rashes or breathing problems. Food allergies often become severe to even life-threatening.

In order to assess the presence of a food allergy, a skin prick or blood test measures the presence of Immunoglobulin E (IgE). Most of the time, IgE indicates an immune response.


Since no standard medical definition for sensitivity exists, its use often encompasses both allergies and intolerances. Usually, a food sensitivity test looks for the presence of Immunoglobulin G (IgG).

However, IgG does not appear to accurately identify the existence of either food allergies or sensitivities. Because most people produce IgG after eating, these antibodies do not indicate a specific sensitivity. At the same time, previous or frequent exposure to a particular food can cause the levels of IgG to increase.

This leads to an important caution for any food sensitivity test measuring IgG: Any restrictions imposed on you due to IgG levels may keep you from eating some healthy foods. And on the other hand, looking only at IgG levels also may lead to people with food allergies to eat some foods that can harm them.


This third definition to keep in mind has to do with foods you may not digest properly. This defines food intolerance. This may occur as a result of a lack of a particular enzyme needed to digest certain foods, or you may have a reaction to additives or natural compounds in some foods.

Food Sensitivities and Adrenal Fatigue

When discussing food sensitivities, it is important to consider health conditions that can lead to them, like Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Adrenal fatigue is a condition caused by chronic or severe stress that leads to imbalances in the body systems. Newly developed food sensitivities are a common symptom.

Because of the likelihood of food sensitivities occurring with AFS, taking a food sensitivity test may help identify some of these sensitivities. Once you know the foods you may develop sensitivity to, you can do a food elimination diet, avoid them, and see if that helps reduce the stress they bring to your already-inflamed body.

Why Do Food Sensitivities Occur?

One thing that happens with these food sensitivities, especially when you suffer from AFS, occurs in your microbiome and gut. Your microbiome develops dysbiosis or imbalance. This imbalance leads to metabolic issues. With a weakened metabolic system, you may experience problems with nutrient absorption and reduced detoxification because your liver gets overloaded. This leads to clogging in your extracellular matrix (ECM), and toxins begin building up.

In your gut, the increased toxins and inflammation produced by metabolic issues lead to a higher risk of developing leaky gut. This condition allows food particles, toxins, and pathogens in the gut to access your bloodstream.

When those toxins get into the bloodstream, they trigger your immune system to begin its work. Inflammation increases to fight the pathogens. But as this condition progresses, your immune system may become hyperactive, attacking healthy cells in an effort to get rid of foreign invaders. This can trigger the development of autoimmune conditions. Often, it is not just foods you are sensitive to but inflammatory foods that can bring damage to your gut lining.

These food sensitivities can bring on serious symptoms related to AFS. Getting a food sensitivity test can help you avoid some of these symptoms.

Common Foods That Can Lead To Sensitivities

Some of the foods to which a person can develop sensitivity may surprise you. Others are so commonly associated with sensitivities as to not be surprising. Some of the more common ones are listed below.

Cow’s Milk, Cheese, and Whey

Milk and dairy products may comprise the most commonly known foods that bring on sensitivity. Cheese and whey also make up food types to which a person may develop sensitivity.

Milk and its products can show up in many foods. Butter and yogurt both can contain milk products, although you can get clarified butter that contains no milk protein. Yogurt may not cause as many problems because the milk protein breaks down through fermentation.

Fatigue, chronic sinus congestion, acne, bloating, and digestive upset may indicate the presence of a dairy sensitivity.

Gluten-Containing Grains

Grains containing gluten make up the second most common category of foods people develop sensitivities to. Gluten, found in wheat and other grains, does not digest easily. Also, it triggers your immune system frequently. Genetic susceptibility to gluten sensitivity may lie at the root of this issue.

Some Gluten-Free Grains

This category of foods may surprise you. Rice, quinoa, and oats are included here. Sensitivity to these grains does not occur frequently but can flare up in certain individuals. Symptoms such as bloating, digestive upset, and fatigue can result.


Sensitivity to eggs shows up frequently in healthcare clinics. Symptoms include bloating, eczema, nausea, and itchy skin. The whites of eggs may stimulate sensitivity more often than the yolks. In fact, some people tend to react to whites and not to yolks.


Corn, a common food for sensitivities, can bring on more chronic symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, bloating, and irritable bowel symptoms. Even if you think you don’t have corn in your diet, you may. Watch out for corn flour, corn syrup, and corn starch. Even ascorbic acid and dextrose are typically made from corn.


A common sensitivity and allergy food, soy can result in acne, eczema, joint pain, and headaches. If soy triggers your immune system, products like tofu, soy protein powders, and soy milk may cause significant problems for you. These products contain more soy protein, a trigger for inflammation in some. Fermented soy products like tempeh, soy sauce, and miso may not cause so much trouble for you.


Beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts fall into this category. Bloating and gas typically result from eating these foods. In addition, pain and fatigue may also result. If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder, these foods may become triggers for your immune system more often.

Tree Nuts

Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, and cashews make up a major category of sensitivity-promoting foods. Cystic acne comprises one of the most frequently seen symptoms.

Citrus Fruits

Another surprising category of sensitivity-causing foods, only some citrus fruits may cause symptoms for some people. Grapefruit, lemon, limes, and oranges may lead to symptoms that include reflux, nausea, hives, joint pain, and itchy skin. They also can trigger inflammation.

Nightshade Vegetables

The majority of people have no problem with this category of foods, that includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers. However, in the group of people genetically susceptible to sensitivity to these foods, pain and inflammation will most frequently show up. Migraines, irritated skin, nausea, headaches, and joint pain can also come with eating these foods.

Typical Symptoms of Food Sensitivities

As listed above, bloating is one of the most frequently seen symptoms. Bloating and puffiness around the eyes indicate the presence of inflammation.

Fatigue, likewise, is one of the most common symptoms. Brain fog tends to come right along with it. Also, these often present as two of the most common symptoms of AFS. They come from the inflammation that can flood your body when your immune system becomes triggered by food sensitivities.

Frequent sinus congestion and post-nasal drip can indicate a food sensitivity. These symptoms result from an increase in histamine production. It causes tiny blood vessels in your nose to dilate and cause swelling. This inflammatory reaction also can lead to excess mucus.

Dark circles under your eyes come when chronic sinus congestion causes the circulation in tiny blood vessels to slow down. These tiny vessels darken as they swell causing what some call ‘allergic shiners’.

Some other indicators of food sensitivities include respiratory symptoms, eczema, skin rashes, acne, and pain in your body.

How to Identify Food Sensitivities

Most experts agree that the elimination diet is the most effective way to learn which foods you experience sensitivity to.

After cutting out all foods from your diet that you think cause problems, an oral challenge follows. Here, you add in those foods back into your diet one at a time and monitor the result. You should eliminate these foods for a period of three weeks before starting the oral challenge. This process makes up the "gold standard" for a food sensitivity test.

If you don’t follow this process, your symptoms may be hard to detect or masked.

This elimination diet requires a strong commitment on your part. Not just not eating the foods, but to add only one at a time, wait to see the results, and record everything. It may take several days after eating any of the added foods for you to see results. Likewise, you must know all of the ingredients in everything you eat. This makes eating out - and eating in - difficult.

However, following this process makes a food sensitivity test much more beneficial. It will help you further pinpoint which foods truly cause problems.

Should You Get A Food Sensitivity Test?

Conventional medical research indicates that getting a food sensitivity test does not produce good results. This research shows the finding of IgG antibodies does not necessarily mean you may experience a sensitivity to a particular food. Everyone makes IgG antibodies after eating.

On the other hand, those who suffer from AFS know food sensitivities are both a symptom and a trigger for AFS symptoms. When these foods enter your body, your immune system becomes activated. This increases inflammation and may also lead to leaky gut, migraines, joint pain, bloating, acne, eczema, and some autoimmune conditions.

Steps to Take If Considering a Food Sensitivity Test

If you are suffering from food sensitivities, here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the situation.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about your symptoms.
  • Find out if you need a referral to an allergist to determine if you have a food allergy.
  • Find a healthcare provider who understands AFS and food sensitivities.
  • Determine whether to do an elimination diet with guidance from your healthcare provider. The key to gut repair is to first remove the foods or sensitivities that are causing harm. Only after removing the inflammatory cause can you proceed to repair the gut.

Whatever course of action you decide to take, however, please do so with the guidance of your healthcare provider. He or she will talk with you about the benefits of each option you have.

If you would like to know more about or need assistance with food sensitivities or a food sensitivity test, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

A food sensitivity test basically measures the presence of IgG in your blood. If it comes back positive, this means some food you consumed is one you might be sensitive to. However, all foods produce IgG. Knowing this can lead you to an elimination diet to further pinpoint the offending foods.

© Copyright 2001-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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