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Food Sensitivity Tests: Why I Changed My Mind And What To Do Instead

Hey there! Have you ever considered having food sensitivity tests done?

If you’re not quite sure what they are, let me explain. These tests promise to pinpoint exactly what foods are causing you all sorts of discomfort. If you’re like many of the incredible women I talk to every day (and myself a few years ago!), you might be hoping for an answer to your digestive issues or that unexplained fatigue that just won’t quit.

But here’s the thing: while the idea of having a clear list of “bad” foods might seem like the golden ticket to feeling better, the reality is often more complicated—and, frankly, less helpful—than it appears at first glance.

In this article, we’re going to dive into the world of food sensitivities, gut health, and why those popular food sensitivity tests might not be the solution they’re often made out to be.

But don’t worry, this isn’t one of those articles that will leave you with more questions than answers. We’re going to explore genuinely effective ways to get to the bottom of what’s bugging your belly and how to truly nurture your body back to vibrant health.

So, take a deep breath, settle in, and let’s get started!

Understanding Food Reactions: The Spectrum

When we talk about how our bodies react to what we eat, it’s kind of like entering a complex dance of reactions, each with its own steps and rhythms.

In this dance, there are three main types of partners:

  • food allergies
  • food intolerances
  • food sensitivities

Knowing who’s leading and why can make all the difference in how we feel day-to-day.

Food Allergies

Let’s start with food allergies. If you have a food allergy, your immune system sees certain foods as a threat and reacts immediately. This can lead to serious symptoms like swelling, hives, or even breathing difficulties—definitely not something you can easily overlook. Food allergies are the ones that can have you reaching for an EpiPen and avoiding specific foods like the plague.

Food Intolerances

Having a food intolerance is less dangerous than having a food allergy, but still something to be aware of. Intolerance is more about what happens when your body can’t digest certain foods properly. Think of lactose intolerance, where dairy products leave you feeling bloated, gassy, or running to the bathroom. These reactions are more about your digestive system saying, “Nope, can’t handle this,” rather than your immune system sounding the alarm.

Food Sensitivities

Sensitivity to certain foods, on the other hand, might not cause immediate or severe reactions like allergies do, but they can lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms—think bloating, headaches, or fatigue—that sneak up on you hours or even days later. Figuring out food sensitivities can be frustrating and confusing.

So, why is understanding this spectrum so important?

Because it shows that finding what makes us feel unwell isn’t as simple as taking a test. It’s about paying attention to our bodies, noticing how we react to different foods, and doing some detective work to discover what’s behind our discomfort.

The Pitfalls of Food Sensitivity Tests

Now, let’s chat about food sensitivity testing. It sounds like a dream, right? Just a simple test, and voilà, you know exactly what to avoid to skip those annoying symptoms.

But here’s the thing: it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Let me explain……

Accuracy Issues

Imagine getting a map that’s supposed to lead you to treasure, but instead of X marking the spot, you’ve got random marks all over the place.

That’s kind of what happens with food sensitivity tests. They have not been proven to be accurate and can throw up a lot of false positives. This means you might end up cutting out foods you love for no good reason. Talk about a wild goose chase!

Misleading Results

Here’s where things get even more muddled. Sometimes, these tests point to foods as problematic, not because those foods are inherently bad for you, but because your gut is letting things slip through that shouldn’t.

So What’s The Real Culprit? Leaky Gut.

Imagine your gut is a cozy, little inn with a strict guest list. A leaky gut is like having a bouncer that’s too lenient, letting in guests who weren’t invited. These uninvited guests (food particles, to be precise) crash the party, causing all sorts of mayhem (inflammation and immune responses).

So, when a food sensitivity test shows you’re reacting to foods, it’s often because of this leaky bouncer, not because those foods are the enemy.

Focusing solely on the results of food sensitivity tests without addressing the underlying issues, like a leaky gut, is like mopping up water from a leaky roof without ever fixing the hole. Sure, you might catch some of the drips, but the problem’s not going away until you get up there and patch things up.

6 Possible Causes of a Leaky Gut

Diving deeper, let’s explore the causes of a leaky gut—our metaphorical “lenient bouncer.”

Imagine your gut as a fortress. When it’s in top condition, it’s excellent at deciding what gets in and what stays out. But several factors can weaken this fortress, creating gaps where there shouldn’t be any.

Here’s a rundown of the usual suspects that can lead to a leaky gut:

  • Stress: It’s not just a feeling in your head; it’s a body-wide event. Chronic stress can wear down your gut’s defenses, making it easier for unwanted guests to slip through the cracks.
  • Poor Diet: Eating processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats like seed oils can damage your gut lining over time.
  • Medications: Certain medications, like antibiotics and NSAIDs (think ibuprofen), can disrupt the balance in your gut, making the lining more permeable. It’s as if these medications are accidentally knocking holes in your gut walls.
  • Toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins, like pesticides and pollution, can also contribute to a leaky gut.
  • Excessive Alcohol: Alcohol can irritate and weaken your gut lining, making it leaky.
  • Lack of Sleep: Not getting enough rest can impact your gut health, too, reducing its ability to repair and maintain a strong barrier. Think of sleep as the nightly repair crew for your fortress. Without them, the walls start to deteriorate.

Addressing a leaky gut means looking at these factors and figuring out which ones are at play in your life. It’s not just about eliminating certain foods. It’s about nurturing your gut’s health from the ground up, ensuring the fortress is well-maintained, well-defended, and capable of distinguishing friend from foe.

Healing Your Gut: Beyond the Basics

Alright, so we’ve identified that our gut fortress might be a bit worse for wear, letting in those uninvited guests through gaps in the walls.

Now, what do we do about it?

Healing your gut is a bit like renovating and reinforcing your fortress—you have to take steps that rebuild its strength and integrity.

Here’s how you can start this restoration project:

  • Nourish with Whole Foods: Begin by fueling your body with whole, nutrient-rich foods. Think of these as the building materials for your fortress—fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains provide the essential nutrients to repair and strengthen the gut lining.
  • Minimize Stress: Implement stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or simply taking time each day to relax and do something you enjoy.
  • Moderate Exercise: Regular, moderate exercise helps keep you strong and healthy inside and out. Just be sure not to overdo it, as too much exercise can be just as damaging as too little.
  • Limit Toxins: Reduce your exposure to toxins by choosing organic when possible, filtering your water, and avoiding unnecessary chemicals in your home and personal care products.
  • Mindful Medication: Be cautious with the use of medications. Talk to your healthcare provider about the necessity of any drugs you’re taking and their potential impact on your gut health.
  • Quality Sleep: Prioritize getting enough quality sleep. Good sleep is crucial for its recovery and upkeep.

And, while supplements can be incredibly helpful, it’s important to focus on mineral-rich, whole foods as the first line of defense. Then, use targeted supplements if needed.

Remember, healing your gut doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, a journey back to health. But by making these changes, you’re taking significant, positive steps toward not just patching up those gaps in your fortress but making it stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Exploring Gut Health: The Importance of Gut Metabolites

Now let’s talk about a related topic I don’t hear many people covering- gut metabolites.

Beyond the walls of our gut fortress and the foods we choose to let in, there’s a bustling ecosystem of bacteria that play a crucial role in our overall health.

These microscopic inhabitants are busy at work producing gut metabolites, powerful compounds that can significantly influence our well-being.

Think of gut metabolites as the messages sent between the inhabitants of your gut fortress and the rest of the body, coordinating everything from inflammation levels to mood.

Short-chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs)

Among the most beneficial of these metabolites are SCFAs, produced when good bacteria ferment fiber in the colon. SCFAs are like the peacemakers of your body, reducing inflammation and strengthening the gut wall. They’re essential allies in maintaining the health of your fortress.


On the flip side, we have histamine, a metabolite that’s a bit of a double agent. In the right amounts, histamine is crucial for immune responses and digestion. But in excess, it can lead to discomfort and symptoms like headaches, skin rashes, and more.

Balancing histamine levels is key to keeping peace within the gut and the whole body, really.

Understanding and managing the balance of these and other gut metabolites is crucial. This is where specialized testing, like the OAT test, can come into play, offering insights far more relevant than what standard food sensitivity tests can provide.

By examining the production and presence of these metabolites, we can tailor dietary and lifestyle interventions to support the beneficial bacteria and metabolites while reducing those that are wreaking havoc.

We don’t want to wage war on the inhabitants of your gut but instead, foster a thriving, balanced ecosystem that supports your health from the inside out.

By focusing on gut metabolites and the factors that influence their balance, we can make targeted changes that have profound effects on our health, well-being, and even our mood and energy levels.

It’s an approach that respects the complexity of our gut’s ecosystem and works with it to achieve optimal health.

Can Diet Changes Be Helpful?

So, we’ve ventured deep into the territory of gut health, understanding its complexities and the role of metabolites.

But where does that leave us with dietary changes?

After all, if food sensitivity tests aren’t exactly what we hoped for, and if our focus shifts to healing the gut and balancing its ecosystem, do changes in our diet still play a part?

Absolutely! But diet changes do not necessarily mean long-term, strict elimination diets.

Smart Elimination Diets

Sometimes, a little detective work with your diet can light the path to better health.

An elimination diet, when done thoughtfully, removes the usual suspects (like dairy or gluten) for a time, then reintroduces them to see how your body reacts.

The goal isn’t to ban these foods for life but to understand how they affect your unique physiology. It’s targeted, temporary, and tells us more about your body’s responses than a test could.

Tailored Dietary Adjustments

Armed with knowledge about your gut’s metabolites and the state of your gut health, we can make dietary changes that genuinely support you.

High histamine foods might be reduced if they’re causing trouble, or perhaps increasing fiber if SCFAs need a boost. It’s all about what your gut needs to thrive, not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Navigating Restrictions with Balance

While some adjustments are necessary, swinging the pendulum too far into restrictive diet territory can do more harm than good.

Overly limiting diets can starve the good bacteria in your gut of the diverse nutrients they need.

The goal is to find a balance that nurtures your gut health while still enjoying a rich, varied diet.

The Role of Supplements

Sometimes, supplements can be helpful. But remember, they’re supplements, not replacements. The foundation of your health is a balanced, nutrient-rich diet.

Dietary changes can be incredibly powerful tools in your journey to better health but be careful about following the latest diet trend.

A better strategy is to listen to your body, understand its needs, and respond with love and care.

The journey to better health is a marathon, not a sprint, and nourishing your body with the right foods at the right time is key to crossing that finish line feeling strong, vibrant, and healthy.

FAQ: Navigating Food Sensitivities and Gut Health

As we navigate the ins and outs of gut health and dietary adjustments, it’s natural to have questions.

Let’s go over a few of the most common I hear from clients and hopefully, you will find these helpful as well!

1. How do I know if I have a food sensitivity or intolerance?

Identifying food sensitivities or intolerances often requires a bit of detective work since reactions can vary widely in type and timing. Keep a detailed food diary to track what you eat and any symptoms you experience. Look for patterns, but remember, it’s not absolute proof. My advice would be to seek out a provider that offers functional testing and use the results along with your food diary to get a clearer picture.

2. Can eliminating certain foods improve my gut health?

Yes, in some cases, especially if those foods are causing inflammation or other negative reactions in your body. But, it’s important to approach elimination diets carefully to be sure you’re not unnecessarily restricting your diet or missing out on essential nutrients.

3. Are probiotics helpful for improving gut health?

Probiotics can be beneficial in some cases. However, the effectiveness can vary depending on the strains used and your specific gut health needs. If possible, my preference is to start with food-based options. Fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are excellent choices and you don’t have to eat a lot to enjoy the benefits. In fact, I always recommend that clients start with a small amount to see how they feel and work up from there.

One thing to note-if you experience histamine reactions from food, you may not be able to tolerate fermented foods just yet. This is one case where a specialized probiotic may be recommended while working on liver and gut health.

4. How long does it take to heal a leaky gut?

The time it takes varies depending on the extent of the damage and how effectively you’re able to address the underlying causes. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more. Patience and consistency with dietary changes, stress management, and other lifestyle adjustments are key.

5. Is it necessary to follow a gluten-free diet for gut health?
I almost always recommend eliminating gluten, for several reasons, even if my clients do not have a concern such as Celiac Disease.

Here’s why…..

  • Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: Some individuals experience bloating, fatigue, and headaches after consuming gluten, despite not having celiac disease. Eliminating gluten can alleviate these symptoms.
  • Digestive Health: Gluten can contribute to inflammation and increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), leading to discomfort and immune responses even in those without gluten sensitivity.
  • Glyphosate Exposure: Concerns about glyphosate, a herbicide used on wheat crops, include its potential to disrupt the gut microbiome and contribute to gastrointestinal issues. Choosing organic, gluten-free grains or complex carbohydrates like organic sweet potatoes, squash, or beans may minimize this exposure.
  • Autoimmune Conditions: Gluten’s inflammatory potential may increase symptoms of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, making gluten removal beneficial.
  • Inflammation and Chronic Conditions: Systemic inflammation linked to gluten can worsen conditions like fibromyalgia and skin issues such as eczema.
  • Mental Health: Some evidence suggests gluten consumption may impact mental health, contributing to anxiety and depression in sensitive individuals.

Holly’s Path to Vibrant Health: A Success Story

Let me take a minute now to give an example of what we’ve been talking about here.

I’d like to tell you about Holly, a client of mine. Holly came to me feeling exhausted, had been dealing with digestive issues, and was frustrated by a seemingly endless cycle of trial and error with her diet. Like many, she had gone down the rabbit hole of food sensitivity testing, only to find herself more confused and restricted in her eating than ever before.

Before: A Cycle of Frustration

Holly’s journey began with symptoms that wouldn’t seem to let up: bloating, headaches, and an overall feeling of fatigue that made her daily life a struggle. She had tried eliminating foods based on food allergy testing, but the improvements were short-lived, and the restrictions were not sustainable.

The Turning Point: A Holistic Approach

Together, we decided to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Instead of focusing solely on eliminating foods based on sensitivity tests, we did a few functional tests that I knew would give her a much more comprehensive picture of what was really going on.
Then, we explored her overall lifestyle, stress levels, and eating habits. We introduced a balanced, whole-foods-based diet, prioritized stress-reduction techniques, and incorporated moderate exercise into her routine.

Healing from Within: Nurturing the Gut

Armed with this new information, Holly started incorporating the foods that were healthy for her and worked toward creating a supportive environment for beneficial gut bacteria to thrive. We also addressed potential leaky gut issues by including foods known for their gut-healing properties, such as bone broth and fermented vegetables, and targeted supplements that helped soothe, heal, and support.

The Outcome: A New Chapter

After just a few months, Holly began noticing significant changes. Her energy levels were better, her digestive issues were occasional instead of every day, and the fog of fatigue that had clouded her days lifted. More importantly, she felt empowered, and equipped with the knowledge and tools to maintain her health over the long term.

Reflecting on the Journey

Holly’s story is a testament to the power of a personalized, holistic approach to health. It shows the importance of looking beyond quick fixes and restrictive diets, focusing instead on nurturing the body and mind collectively.

Her journey from frustration to better health serves as inspiration for anyone feeling trapped in a cycle of dietary restrictions and unresolved symptoms. It’s a reminder that with the right guidance, patience, and a willingness to listen to one’s body, vibrant health is within reach.

Wrapping It All Up

So, we’ve had quite a chat about all things gut health and finding what works for you.

Here’s a quick recap before we think about next steps:

  • Food Sensitivities vs. Gut Health: It’s not just about cutting foods out; it’s about figuring out the why.
  • Functional Tests and Food Journals: These tools are much more helpful than food sensitivity tests.
  • Holistic Approach: We’re talking stress management, good eats, and moving your body in ways that feel right.
  • Gut-Loving Foods & Supplements: Prebiotics, probiotics, and foods that make your gut happy.

Feeling ready to ditch the guesswork and start making changes that actually feel good?

If you’re nodding along, thinking, “Yes! It’s time,” then I’m here to help.

Let’s have a no-pressure, no-commitment talk about your health story and goals.

Then, if we decide this is a good fit, we’ll map out a plan that’s all about you—no one-size-fits-all stuff here. With some solid testing, listening to what your body’s telling you, and making changes that fit your life, and living the radiant life you deserve!

Ready to jump in? Click here to schedule your free 20-minute discovery call.

Here’s to moving forward with confidence, and stepping into a healthier, happier life.

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