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What is the Best Food Sensitivity Testing Method?


What is The Best Food Sensitivity Testing Method?

Many people go through life with chronic inflammation and poor health without knowing that
the foods they are eating could be causing their health issues. Even healthy foods can be
harmful to your body when you are sensitive to them. Luckily, we are now able to test for
food sensitivities.

When you have food sensitivities, your body reacts to certain foods as a threat with an
overactive immune response. Repeated exposure to the problematic foods can result
in chronic inflammation and other health problems. It is estimated that 45-75% of
individuals have some type of food sensitivities.
Sensitivities vs. Allergies
There are numerous symptoms associated with food sensitivities. Symptoms can be delayed
up to 72 hours after consuming the food and can manifest in many different bodily
systems. Digestive issues, fatigue, migraines, joint pain, skin issues, and many more health
problems are linked to food sensitivities.

Many people use the terms “food sensitivity”, “food allergy”, and “food intolerance” to
describe any adverse reaction to food. Sensitivities differ from intolerances and food allergies,
and it is important to understand the differences.
Food allergies can be life-threatening and the symptoms are immediate. Wheat and gluten,
soy, dairy, fish, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts are the most common food allergens.
Food sensitivities can be to any food, especially those you eat the most. Food sensitivities can
be resolved by removing the problematic foods from your diet and allowing your gut time to

Why Test for Food Sensitivities?

Because food sensitivities have delayed symptoms, it can be difficult to pinpoint which foods
are causing the symptoms. This is where food sensitivity testing is critical. By using food
sensitivity testing, you can determine which foods should be removed from your diet.

This article will explain food sensitivities including the causes of food sensitivities and how
they are distinguished from food intolerances and food allergies. I will also discuss the health
consequences of food sensitivities and the best way to testfor food sensitivities.
Food Sensitivities and the Immune System
Your immune system is responsible for identifying and destroying foreign substances
(antigens) in the body such as bacteria and viruses. To fight these foreign substances, the
immune system produces antibodies (or immunoglobulins). These antibodies are produced to
keep our bodies healthy when antigens enter the body.
When we are sensitive to foods, the antibodies become confused and attack food proteins. The
antibodies produced with food sensitivities are IgE, IgG, IgA, and IgM, representing either an
immediate or delayed response.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies are produced immediately in response to food allergies.

These antibodies are found on the surface of mast cells. When activated, IgE antibodies
trigger the mast cells to release various chemical messengers causing the symptoms
associated with a severe food allergy. Symptoms occur in the areas that have a lot of mast
cells, such as the skin, nasal passages, and gastrointestinal tract. The major food allergens are
including in specific IgE food panels to test for this immediate reaction.
The immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibody is a delayed response antibody. IgA is found in high
concentrations in the mucous membranes lining the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory

Immunoglobulin M (IgM) is the first antibody produced immediately after exposure to an

antigen. IgM antibodies are found mainly in the blood and lymph fluid.

The largest circulating antibody is immunoglobulin G (IgG). It is found in all body fluids and
protects against bacterial and viral infections. There are four subclasses of IgG. IgG1
responds to new food antigens. IgG2 and IgG3 react to cell surface oligosaccharides of
viruses, protozoa, and foods. IgG4 is related to delayed food sensitivity symptoms.
A test for food sensitivities will commonly look at IgG and IgA reactions to different foods.
We will discuss the best test for food sensitivities later in this article.

Causes of Food Sensitivities

It is important to understand and address the underlying causes of food sensitivities. While
there are various influences that can cause an abnormal immune reaction to food, leaky
gut syndrome is one of the main causes of food sensitivities.

Leaky gut syndrome, or intestinal hyper permeability, is a condition in which the tight
junctions in the gut lining become too large and abnormally permeable. Undigested food
particles and toxins can pass through these holes in the gut lining and into the bloodstream.
This causes the immune system to overreact and produce antibodies.

There are other potential causes of food sensitivities. Food sensitivities are linked to
imbalances of intestinal microbiota and to chronic stress. Exposure to pollution, pesticides,
chemicals, additives and preservatives in our foods can also cause food sensitivities by
straining the immune system (1). A strained immune system is less able to respond
appropriately to antigens in food.

Food Intolerance

Intolerances and sensitivities are similar and can have the same symptoms. The main
difference in the two is that a food sensitivity causes an immune reaction whereas a food
intolerance occurs when the body has difficulty digesting certain foods. When you are
intolerant to a food, it is most often because your body does not produce any (or enough) of
the needed enzymes to digest the food.

Testing for food intolerances will look for digestive enzyme deficiencies and underlying
causes rather than immune system responses. The symptoms of food intolerances are varied
and can include migraines, cough, and gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas or

Dairy, gluten, and gas promoting foods like beans are most common food intolerances. For
example, a person will have lactose intolerance when they do not produce the enzyme lactase
(or enough of the enzyme) to be able to digest milk.

Histamine Intolerances

Histamine intolerance is another example of a food intolerance. Histamine is an

inflammatory molecule that helps regulate immunity. An individual with histamine
intolerance has an exaggerated reaction to high histamine foods (such as fermented foods and
beverages, vinegar, cured meats, soured foods, citrus fruits, dried fruits, aged cheeses, nuts,
and processed foods) or foods that produce histamine (such as alcohol, cow’s milk, avocados,
nuts, and bananas).

The causes of the exaggerated reaction to high histamine foods could be insufficient DAO
enzyme production (needed for proper histamine metabolism) or elevated histamine levels.

To reduce the symptoms associated with a food intolerance, you would need to reduce your
exposure to these foods and take steps to improve your enzyme levels.

Food Allergy

Both food sensitivities and food allergies cause an overactive immune response and are often
confused with each other. They have important differences.
Food allergies are serious and potentially life-threatening conditions (2).

They cause an immediate and severe immune reaction that affects numerous organs in the
body. They also trigger the IgE portion of the immune system. Symptoms of
food allergies include swelling, rashes, hives, itchiness, throat closing, and anaphylactic

Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities, on the other hand, cause a delayed reaction and trigger the IgA, IgG, and
IgM portions of the immune system. This type of response does not create the acute effects of
an allergy.
They do throw off the immune system and create a chronic source of inflammation that can
cause numerous health issues in the future, however. Because of the delay in symptoms, it is
difficult to determine which foods are problematic without testing. Finding the right test for
food sensitivities can be very important for overcoming various health conditions.

Food allergies affect around 15 million Americans, including one of every thirteen children
(3). You can develop a food allergy as a child or as an adult. Food allergies can be to one
food or several foods. If you have a food allergy, it is critical to avoid the allergenic food in
all forms.
How Food Sensitivities Can Impact Your Health
There are numerous ways that food sensitivities can impact your health. Eating problematic
foods can cause immediate or delayed symptoms in numerous bodily systems. Repeated
exposure to these foods creates inflammatory spirals that can damage brain tissue, joints,
skin, and organ systems.
Digestive symptoms are common with food sensitivities. Possible digestive problems include
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut syndrome. Diarrhea and/or constipation,
bloating, gastritis, reflux, and associated malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies, can result
from food sensitivities.

A leaky gut can cause food sensitivities and consuming inflammatory foods can make the gut
more permeable and prevent the gut from healing and sealing.

Food sensitivities inflame the gut lining, creating this cycle of gut permeability and more food
sensitivities. Since at least 70% of the immune system is in the digestive tract, gut
irritation results in an inflammation throughout the body (4).
There are physical manifestations of food sensitivities. Dark circles or bags under the eyes,
water retention, nasal congestion, constipation, rashes, itchiness, muscle aches, and joint pain
are some of the possible indicators. When you have skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis
this can indicate that you are sensitive to foods.

People with food sensitivities can also have neurological symptoms such as migraines,
memory problems, chronic fatigue, mood swings, ADHD, and neuropathy. They can even
cause insomnia, depression, mood swings, and cravings.

Food sensitivities can interfere with the metabolic, endocrine and hormonal systems, resulting
in obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, poor thyroid function, and more. Other symptoms
include lowered immune system, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and respiratory issues.
As we discussed already, these wide ranging symptoms may be in large by the breakdown of
the gut barrier and contribution to leaky gut.
As you can see, there are wide-ranging health effects of consuming foods that you are
sensitive to on a regular basis. Identifying your own sensitivities and removing them from
your diet may make a tremendous impact on your health. Next, we will cover finding a test
for food sensitivities that meets your needs.
How to Test for Food Sensitivities
Testing for food sensitivities is essential to avoid the inflammatory cascade that results from
repeating exposure to problematic foods. Finding the right test for food sensitivities will help
identify which foods are inflaming the gut so that you can avoid those foods and allow the gut
time to heal and seal.
Food sensitivities are mediated by multiple pathogenic mechanisms, and there are numerous
clinical and immunologic complexities associated with food sensitivities. This gives rise to
numerous options for food sensitivity testing.

Biofeedback testing, immunoglobulin testing, mediator release testing, muscle response

testing, and cellular testing are different types of food sensitivity testing options.
I will briefly review the major options for food sensitivity testing, and then explain why
the Cyrex Array 10-90X is the most thorough and accurate means of testing for food
Biofeedback Testing Strategies
Three non-invasive, inexpensive food sensitivity testing strategies are pulse testing and an
elimination diet. In this category is muscle response testing, which can be done at home or
with a trained practitioner for best accuracy.
Muscle Response Testing

Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET®) uses muscle response testing to

confirm the presence of allergic reactivity (7). Changes in muscle strength are assessed while
a person is exposed to a food. Muscle weakness is thought to indicate that the food is
Once a food sensitivity or allergy is identified, NAET claims to be able to eliminate the
allergy with spinal manipulation, acupressure and/or acupuncture and energy balancing. The
treatment strategy is to reprogram the brain’s negative responses towards the food through

Muscle response testing does not look at immunoglobulins, the most important players in
food sensitivities. This method is not generally accepted as an accurate test for food
Pulse Testing

Pulse testing is a biofeedback test for food sensitivities. This method measures the stress
response caused by foods based on the increase in your heart rate. Problematic foods activate
the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, signaling a fight or flight response
in the body and increasing blood pressure and heart rate. Measuring your pulse rate when
exposed to specific foods can indicate whether the foods activate this stress response.
If you don’t feel comfortable testing your pulse on your wrist, you can also purchase and use
a pulse oximeter that records both your pulse and your oxygen concentration. This is a very
helpful and inexpensive piece of equipment that will help with the testing. I recommend this

There are two ways to measure your pulse rate. You can use your wrist or a pulse oximeter
that records both your pulse and your oxygen concentration. The steps to performing the pulse
test are as follows:
1: Sit down and relax for 5 minutes;

2: Take 3 long, deep diaphragmatic breaths;

3: Test 60 second pulse rate and record result;

4: Take 3 long, deep diaphragmatic breaths again;

5: Put food to be challenged on your tongue and wait for 20 seconds (do not chew and
swallow as this can cause a false positive result);

6: Record pulse with food still on your tongue; and,

7: Note the difference between normal heart rate and food challenge heart rate.
The following graphic depicts what should be interpreted from the results of your pulse test.
Elimination Diet with Food Journal

An elimination diet is a test for food sensitivities where specific foods are eliminated for
around 6 weeks. The foods eliminated are those that are most commonly allergenic or
inflammatory including gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs, corn, soy, vegetable oils, grains, shellfish,
tree nuts, legumes, and nightshade vegetables.

Once these foods have been removed from the diet for the elimination period, you slowly
reintroduce each food one at a time. It is important to keep a journal during the entire process
to document how you are feeling as you eliminate and reintroduce the foods. You want to
note any reaction or symptom that improves with elimination or worsens/reappears with

Using biofeedback strategies to test for food sensitivity testing can be time consuming and
difficult to implement. It can be challenging to eliminate or pulse test all offending foods and
pinpoint the foods that could be causing your symptoms.
Blood Testing For Food Sensitivities
There are several different ways to test blood for food sensitivities. These include the
mediator release test (MRT), cellular testing to look at cellular reactions used in the popular
ALCAT test and traditional ELISA testing looking at specific immunoglobulin reactions.
All of these methods have been used successfully for many people over the years but they are
not all the same and there are pros and cons to each method.
Mediator Release Test (MRT)

One way food sensitivity symptoms manifest is by the production of cell mediators. The
Mediator Release Test for food sensitivities quantifies the inflammatory response of these cell
mediators to food and food chemicals (5).
The release of pro-inflammatory and pro-algesic mediators (cytokines, histamine,
leukotrienes, prostaglandins) from white blood cells (neutrophils, monocytes, eosinophils and
lymphocytes) is a common component of all diet-induced inflammatory reactions. The release
of these mediators causes symptoms connected to food sensitivities.

The MRT measures volumetric changes in lymphocytes, neutrophils, monocytes, and

eosinophils to quantify the level of inflammation caused from the food. In this way, the
individual gains insight into the foods causing the most inflammation and the foods that do
not provoke inflammation. The MRT identifies any non-IgE reaction. However, research is
limited and the food sensitivity testing is expensive.
Cellular Testing

The Alcat (Antigen Leukocyte Cellular Antibody Test) is a blood test that measures cellular
reactions to over 450 foods and other substances (6). The Alcat test measures food
and immune reactions through stimulation of leukocytes. The leukocytes comprise five
classes of white blood cells, including monocytes, lymphocytes, eosinophils, basophils, and

Foods and substances tested by the Alcat include individual foods, additives, colorings,
molds, functional foods, medicinal herbs, chemicals, and environmental substances. The
ALCAT test reports the foods which cause a reaction, categorized by severe, moderate, and

The Alcat only measures adverse white blood cell reactions, it does not look at antibody
reactions or sensitivities caused by IgM pathways. Cell mediated pathways can also be
missed. There is inadequate research verifying this technique, and many researchers do not
believe Alcat is a reliable and reproducible test for food sensitivities.
Immunoglobulin (or Antibody) Testing

IgG, IgA and IgM are the antibodies triggered in food sensitivities. Measuring these levels
gives a better understanding of the immune response to foods. Variations of immunoglobulin
tests for food sensitivities use ELISA methodology, directly or indirectly. Food sensitivity
testing can be distinguished by the immunoglobulins tested, foods (antigens) tested, and
method of testing.

The ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) method involves a protein that catalyzes
a biochemical reaction (enzyme), an antibody, and an antigen (immunologic molecule). Food
particles (antigens) are attached to a surface, then an antibody is applied over the surface so it
can bind to the antigen. This antibody is linked to an enzyme and will produce a signal which
indicates the quantity of the antigen in the sample. Through this method, the antibodies detect
the immune responses in the body.

ELISA testing can also be used to measure zonulin levels which can be indicative of leaky gut
and food sensitivities. Zonulin controls the size of the openings between your gut lining and
your bloodstream. High levels of zonulin can be which can be triggered by gluten, parasites,
candida, and harmful bacteria. Abnormally high levels of zonulin, can cause these openings to
become too large and permeable. As discussed above, gut permeability is linked to food
There are several food sensitivity tests that use the ELISA method including the Food Test 95,
the Dietary Antigen and Environmental Allergen Exposure Profile, and the Cyrex Array 10-
Food Test 95

The Food Test 95 is a test for food sensitivities using the ELISA method (8). The test is done
by dried blood spot from a finger prick. The test analyzes only the IgG antibody and tests 95
foods, fewer than other immunoglobulin tests.
Dietary Antigen and Environmental Allergen Exposure Profile

The Dietary Antigen and Environmental Allergen Exposure profile is food sensitivity testing
that measures multiple antibodies, IgE, IgG and IgG4 (9). The test uses an indirect ELISA
and measures both IgG and immune complexes for complement activation.
Bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and allergens are attacked through the complement pathway. This
pathway is clears threats by initiating inflammatory cytokines, mast cell degranulation, and
cell membrane destruction. While this can be protective, it can damage tissues if not kept
under control. IgG1, IgG3, and IgM can activate complement.

The Dietary Antigen and Environmental Allergen Exposure Profile measures complement
activation and the four subclasses of IgG antibodies for 88 foods. This food sensitivity testing
method detects the delayed allergic response that is mediated by an IgG response and immune

Cyrex Array 10-90X

The Cyrex Array 10-90X is a multiple food immune reactivity screen using the ELISA
method (10). There are 10 advanced technologies used in the Cyrex Array 10-90X that make
it the gold standard for food sensitivity testing.
The Cyrex Array 10-90X is a dual-antibody test, evaluating both IgG and IgA antibodies.
Some people produce more IgA than IgG antibodies or vice versa. Combining the two
antibodies on one panel reduces the possibility of missing reactivity.

The Cyrex Array 10 is unique in that it analyzes 180 cooked, raw, and modified foods,
depending on how the foods are usually consumed. Heating a food to 118 degrees or more
changes the protein structure and antigenicity. The Array 10 minimizes the risk of missing
reactivity to foods by testing reactivity to foods the way in which foods are most likely
The Array 10 tests for reactivity to common food combinations in addition to the individual
food proteins. It tests for reactivity to binding isolates such as plant-derived lectins and
agglutinins. Cyrex detects both the whole food immune reactivity, and the possible reactivity
to a small specific peptide within that whole food, using a targeted protein amplification

Meat glue is used to form larger pieces of meat from small pieces. The Cyrex Array 10-90X
tests for reactivity to meat glue or reformed meat. It also tests for reactivity to cross-reactive
antigens and pan-antigens which can cross-react with human tissue. Artificial food colors,
small-molecule chemicals, and oil proteins (called Oleosins) are also tested.

Antibodies to large gum molecules which can cause immune reactions are also tested in the
Array 10-90X. This can be particularly helpful for individuals on a gluten free diet because
gluten free products often have gums to hold ingredients together.

Another unique aspect of the Cyrex test is that all tests are performed in duplicate samples.
Using duplicate assays results in close to zero probability of error. When the samples correlate
within plus or minus 20%, the results are reported. If the samples do not correlate, the assay is
repeated with replicate samples until the correlation is made and then it is reported.
The Cyrex Array 10-90X is a comprehensive and reliable food sensitivity testing method.
The advanced technologies used in the test distinguish it as the best food sensitivity testing
option available.
For many people, food sensitivities and leaky gut syndrome are the root cause of their chronic
inflammation and health issues. They are linked to many health problems,
including digestive issues, muscle aches and joint pain, migraines, chronic fatigue, insomnia,
and skin rashes.
Food sensitivities can also cause the immune system to react to foods as a threat and produce
immunoglobulins in response. The immunoglobulins produced with food sensitivities are IgG,
IgA, and IgM. Repeated exposure to problematic foods results in an inflammatory cascade
affecting multiple bodily systems.

Food sensitivities are caused by leaky gut syndrome, imbalances in gut microbiota, chronic
stress, and exposure to pesticides, chemicals, additives, and preservatives in food. Food
sensitivities can be resolved by removing the problematic foods from the diet and allowing
the gut time to heal and seal. It can be difficult to identify which foods are causing a reaction
because symptoms resulting from food sensitives are usually delayed up to 72 hours after
A Potential Root Cause of Disease
It is important to do food sensitivity testing to determine which foods are causing an
exaggerated immune reaction and inflaming the body. There are numerous options for food
sensitivity testing including biofeedback strategies, muscle response testing, cellular testing,
mediator release testing, and immunoglobulin testing.
The most thorough and reliable test for food sensitivities is the Cyrex Array 10-90X. The
Cyrex test uses 10 advanced testing technologies. It is a dual antibody test evaluating both
IgG and IgA antibodies. It also analyzes foods cooked, raw, or modified depending on how
the foods are usually consumed. Other technologies include testing for cross reactive and pan-
antigens, reactivity to food combinations, and testing for food gums, artificial coloring, small
molecule chemicals, and oil proteins.

The Cyrex 10-90X uses a dual verification process. Samples are run in side by side duplicate
and correlation between the tests must be met before reporting the results. The technologies
and validation processes used by Cyrex make the 10-90X the gold standard in food sensitivity
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Sources for This Article Include:

1. Jyonouchi H, Non-IgE mediated food allergy – update of recent progress in mucosal immunity, 2012 Oct.; 11(5): 382-96. PMID: 22680623

2. Food allergy vs. food intolerance: What’s the difference? Mayo Clinic. Link here

3. Life with Food Allergies Facts and Statistics; Food Allergy Research and Education. Link here

4. Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, et al., Allergy and the gastrointestinal system, 2008 Sept., 153(Suppl 1): 3-6. PMID: 2515351

5. Mediator Release Test, Link here

6. The Alcat Test, Link here

7. Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques, Link here

8. Food Test 95, Link here

9. Dietary Antigen and Environmental Allergen Exposure Profiles, Link here

10. Cyrex Test Arrays, Link here

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Dr. Jockers

Dr. David Jockers is a doctor of natural medicine, functional nutritionist and corrective care chiropractor. He currently owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia. He has developed 6 revolutionary online
programs with thousands of participants.


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1. Debbie Nelson

May 4, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Can I do the Cyrex Array 10-90X test at home or does a doctor have to order it? If so are there certain doctors that can?


1. Dr. Jockers

May 8, 2018 at 6:24 pm

Hey Debbie! You can order it here:
You can have this done at a local blood draw center. If you need help locating one, you can call the customer service number at the top right of the page!


2. Bob

May 10, 2018 at 1:03 pm

But Dr. Jockers, there are some “superfoods” in the list of foods I am sensitive to. How long after eliminating the sensitive foods from my diet can re-introduce them into my diet? Will my body ever grow
tolerance for these foods or is it like a ‘done deal’? What about eating them in rotation like once in 4 or 5 days? Please answer, thanks.


1. Dr. Jockers

May 10, 2018 at 3:57 pm

Hey Bob, you will likely need to remove them for several months while you heal up the gut and reduce inflammation. Here is a helpful article on this:


3. Kimberly Ouellette

May 25, 2018 at 3:31 pm

I have been breaking out with spotty, pimple-like spots for years (20+). Gradually, they became boil-like. Now, I am breaking out with what look like blisters all over my arms, legs, shoulders, back, and
buttocks. They are itchy and burning. They end up being very deep and leaving big holes in my skin. I am a veteran and they keep (17+ years) telling me I have “Pickers”. Please help!?!? I am in misery and
don’t know what to do next. I have been gluten-free for several months, and about a month ago I had a blood test for celiac that came back negative. I do have hypothyroidism as well.


1. Dr. Jockers

May 26, 2018 at 11:23 am

Hey Kimberly, it sounds like some kind of underlying inflammatory condition. This article may be very helpful if you take all of the info into consideration:


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