Food intolerance testing – does it work?

This is a hot topic!  More and more of us are wondering if we are sensitive to some of the foods we eat.

And after 14 years as a therapist I am convinced that many of us are – and I have seen countless people turn their health around by changing what they eat.

Some of the most common symptoms caused by food intolerances are:

  • Bloating
  • Irritable bowel
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Skin problems
  • Respiratory issues
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach ache
  • Joint pain


But, first of all,  I need to define food intolerance – this is not the same as a food allergy. A food allergy is a true allergic reaction to a food.

An allergic reaction means that:

the immune system produces specific IgE antibodies (immune globulins of the subclass E). These antibodies lead to an immediate allergic reaction causing the release of histamine . The symptoms appear within seconds or minutes: severe swelling, breathing difficulty, rash, itching skin or even anaphylactic shock.

Eight foods account for about 90 percent of all food-allergy reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, nuts, wheat/gluten, soy, fish and shellfish.

Someone who has a true allergy will most probably know which food is causing problems, because the symptoms appear right away. Your G.P. can offer you an IgE test – but they are mainly performed for confirmation.


In contrast a food intolerance – also known as food sensitivity – is likely to be causing the release of IgG antibodies.

IgG antibodies can be released due to a food intolerance / sensitivity. This is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction in which symptoms appear anywhere from hours to days after eating the offending food.

IgG testing – offered by many companies – the most well know of which are York tests – has been discredited in a BBC investigation – this may be because not all of the food intolerances produce an IgG reaction – or the test itself maybe flawed.


Other commonly advertised ways to identify  food intolerance(s) include:


the Vega testing method – with a very impressive looking machine – which was discredited during a BBC investigation;


And hair testing and Applied Kinesiology – neither of which has any validity when judged by conventional science – though I have tried both – and found the applied kinesiology results in keeping with what I knew of my body and its reactions – the hair testing results were most bizarre!


So in summary, I would say:

  • food intolerances are real and cause symptoms
  • the various test offered are all unreliable – though some of the foods they identify may indeed be better avoided – no test currently available will offer a reliable, comprehensive and true analysis of what an individual is sensitive to / intolerant of.


A much more reliable and true method of identifying what food stuffs are not supportive of our health and optimum functioning is an elimination diet.    But a truly effective elimination diet is time consuming and not for the faint hearted! – you will need a lot of will power and your social life maybe tricky for a while!  Sorry not to be able to offer you an easy quick answer – but sometimes life is like that – if I wanted to make a quick buck I’d offer one of the tests in my clinic and tell you it was brilliant – but I would be lying – and that’s not how I do things 🙂

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Emily MumfordView all posts by Emily Mumford