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For people who suspect they are experiencing symptoms due to certain foods, at-home food sensitivity tests are an option. However, they cannot provide a reliable clinical diagnosis.

An at-home food sensitivity test is not a replacement for clinical diagnosis and treatment. There is no scientific evidence that they have clinical value.

This article discusses food sensitivities, when to take a test, how they work, and four of the best at-home tests available for purchase online.

Three commonly used terms regarding reactions to food are food allergy, food intolerance, and food sensitivity.

Food allergy: This usually causes the most severe reaction to a specific food, caused by the body’s immune system reacting to a substance. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology lists the most common trigger foods as milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.

Food intolerance or food sensitivity: “Sensitivity” and “intolerance” describe the inability to process or digest certain foods. This can cause a mild immune reaction and potentially lead to a wide range of symptoms. These include sluggishness, bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain, joint pain, and skin problems. Food sensitivities may change over time as a person’s immune system and gut microbiome change.

Learn more about the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance here.

What are common food sensitivities?

Some commonly reported food sensitivities include:

  • gluten, found in many grains and foods such as pasta, bread, baked goods, and condiments
  • lactose, found in milk and dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and butter
  • caffeine, found in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate
  • salicylates, found in a range of foods such as some fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee, spices, honey, and nuts
  • histamine, the most common trigger, found in fermented foods, cured meats, dried fruits, citrus fruits, and avocados
  • FODMAPs, a group of carbohydrates, found in foods such as milk, soft cheeses, bread, beans, lentils, honey, apples, and beer

The cost of testing kits is often lower than visiting a dietitian or allergist. However, insurance plans do not cover at-home tests.

Scientific studies have not proven the reliability of at-home food sensitivity tests. One article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology recommends that they are not endorsed until they are supported by scientific research.

People may take an at-home test as a precursor to visiting a professional for reliable confirmation of food sensitivities. However, they may save time and money by going directly to a professional for diagnosis.

When to see a doctor

A person should see a doctor if they regularly experience diarrhea, bloating, stomach pain, or skin rashes. A doctor might be able to diagnose the problem from a person’s symptoms and medical history. If not, they can order further tests to investigate the cause.

An at-home test is not a reliable replacement for a clinical diagnosis and doctor-recommended treatments.

If someone suspects they have a food allergy or they are experiencing severe and ongoing symptoms, medical attention is necessary.

Avoiding certain foods because a person incorrectly believes they have food sensitivities or allergy can cause more harm to their overall health. A clinical diagnosis is the most useful for making healthy choices.

At-home food sensitivity testing kits require a person to submit a sample, which could be:

  • blood, from a skin-prick test
  • strands of hair
  • a mouth swab
  • a breath test

Blood, hair and swab tests can take a few weeks for results.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

Everlywell

  • What it tests for: Immune response (IgG) to 96 foods.
  • To take the test: Finger-prick blood sample.
  • To return the test: Put the sample in the prepaid envelope and post it in the mailbox.
  • Who reviews the results? An independent board-certified physician within the person’s state.
  • When are results available? Results for most tests are available within 5 days of the lab processing the test. A person will receive an email notification once the results are ready.
  • Aftercare advice: None.

Check my body health

  • What it tests for: 970 items, including food sensitivities, nonfood sensitivities, and metal sensitivities. It also includes analysis of minerals, vitamin A-K, gut health, and digestion.
  • To take the test: Send strands of hair, either cut or pulled from the root.
  • To return the test: There is no kit. Simply order online then follow the instructions for mailing the hair sample.
  • Who reviews the results? A “bioresonance testing machine” operated by a technician generates the results. There is no physician review.
  • When are results available? 3–5 days from receiving the sample.
  • Aftercare advice: None.

5 Strands Affordable Testing

  • What it tests for: 600 food intolerances.
  • To take the test: Send strands of hair, either cut or pulled from the root.
  • To return the test: Put the sample in the bag provided and mail it in the pre-addressed envelope.
  • Who reviews the results? No information is available on this.
  • When are results available? 7–10 days from receiving the sample.
  • Aftercare advice: None.

FoodMarble

  • What it tests for: Levels of hydrogen in the breath, which indicates how much undigested food is in the gut.
  • To take the test: Log foods in the app. Breathe into the breath tracker device. The device connects with an app.
  • To return the test: No need to return a test. People can use the breath tracker and app to keep track of digestion.
  • Who reviews the results? The user.
  • When are results available? Results are available immediately on the app. Frequently logging foods and tracking breath will give a strong indication of foods a person has difficulty digesting.
  • Aftercare advice: None.

At-home food sensitivity tests are not a scientifically proven way of pinpointing food sensitivities. Tailoring a diet in line with the results may do more harm than good. However, some people may prefer to try an at-home test before seeking a professional diagnosis and guidance.