I’ve had chronic tummy problems for as long as I could remember. In fact, I used to bring a bottle of Pepto with me wherever I went and would pop 2-3 after every meal just to keep my stomach settled. My diet wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t absolutely terrible either and I could never understand how other people around me could consume the same food as me (like my husband) without having shooting pains, cramping and then racing to the bathroom not long after… TMI or true life? You decide. Ha!
About five years ago I decided to do a diet overhaul, a complete and total lifestyle change when it came to my health and fitness, and that meant cutting out a lot of the junk I had been consuming prior. As part of my “clean eating” lifestyle I restricted known “treats” cookies, chips, soda, candy, fast food, etc… I started using the “Portion Fix” system which is a system that focuses on healthy portion control (breaking up the food groups and helping you to regulate how much of each food group you should be eating.) But, despite that – the cleaning up of my diet and the removing of the “known junk” – I was still having stomach sensitivities and it was so frustrating.
This year, as I had mentioned in my prior post, this year has been an ongoing “research project” on how to heal my issues naturally and find out the root of what is making my body “freak out” on multiple fronts and so much of the research I’ve read tied everything back to your gut health – to your stomach. This was such a huge realization to me and one that I became extremely interested in exploring. Could my failed gallbladder and my thyroid disease be linked back to my stomach issues? The answers were pointing to yes and I wanted to know more.
There have always been certain foods I’ve noticed to be “food triggers” that upset my stomach more than others. Dairy, heavy sauces, breads + baked goods, etc. But I wanted to know for sure and get a full analysis of food triggers for my body, the things that based on a blood test, would tell me what my body doesn’t want me to consume and I could really get on track with healing my stomach from a place of clarity! After doing some research it became clear that I needed to take something called an IgG test. An antibody IgG immune response has been demonstrated to offer guidance on what foods may be the best to eliminate. And a company that continued to pop up during my research was a company called EverlyWell which is where the next stage of this journey began!
They have many (awesome) tests on their website but the one I was interested in was the Food Sensitivity Test (which is the IgG test). The test explained that it would test my sensitivity to 96 different foods commonly found in modern Western diets including gluten, dairy, wheat, and yeast. All this time I was under the impression if I cut out gluten all would be fine – I actually didn’t realize that gluten, wheat, and yeast were different in how your body reacts tolerance-wise. This test was going to help me figure out exactly what my body does not want me to consume and I was pretty excited about it. No more of western medicine doctors telling me I had IBS and I needed to take medication to control it – nope, I wanted to get to the bottom of this and that’s what this test was going to do.
Yes, the price tag might feel a little intimidating at $199 BUT this is a test that my doctor + insurance wouldn’t cover (which is sad, but true) and really in the big scheme of things it’s so worth it to get clarity on what foods are making you sick, right?
The package arrived very quickly and I was super excited to dive right into it! In alignment to their website (which was aesthetically beautiful and easy to navigate through) the packaging was well-done, organized and clear instruction on what to do next!
Step 1: Register
Everlywell has you register using a unique code they supply you with so that you can get your results right away, online, as soon as the lab is finished processing your sample. Pretty awesome, right? I had also taken a stool analysis test for another company and it was such a night and day experience between the two companies (in fact, the other company I waited for 5 weeks to get my results in after sending it off – nightmare.) Everlywell had my results within a week of me sending my sample back! More on that later…
Step 2: Prep
Drink a glass of water 30 minutes before collecting sample. Remove contents of the Everlywell box. Rinse hands with warm water for 30 seconds and dry. Stimulate blood flow by letting your hand hang at your side for 15-20 seconds. Shake your hand back and forth several times.
Pay close attention to those collection tips, too. Squeeze the base of your finger with your free hand to produce more blood flow. Do not rub or smear (allow full drops to form and rely fall onto the paper). Do not overlap drops of blood on same collection circle. Do no use heat to assist drying. I’ll admit… I did not follow those collection tips perfectly… But more on that later…
Step 3: Collect
Select ring or pinkie finger (my pointer finger ended up being the one that produced the most blood, haha) and clean the desired puncture site using the alcohol prep pad. Allow blood to drip into the circles (at least 3 of them) until they are completely filled. Complete entire card in one day and lay flat until it is completely dried.
I got a little squeamish about pricking my own finger but I’ll tell you guys it was not that bad. The little yellow and white lancets were easy to use (pop off the top and press down onto your finger). However, the blood did not pool on my pinkie or ring finger enough to have it drop onto the little paper, much less fill the circles. So… I broke some of those collection tip rules outlined above… I pressed my finger to the paper… Oops! And I also may have overlapped the blood sample too… Oops again! Having three circles left I decided to use a different finger and used my last lancet on my pointer finger and voila, success! I was able to fill the next circles using my pointer finger blood (never thought I would type that phrase in my life) following the collection tips! PS how cute is the little green bandaid case that Everlywell includes?
After you’ve filled up your circles (with your finger of choice blood) you’ll allow it to dry, place back in the box and put the box inside the biohazard bag (seen below) and attach the pre-paid shipping label that is also included in your box and you’ll ship back off to Everlywell for testing! EASY, right?
My results came back within a week of sending in my test and while some of my results were spot-on with what I thought they would be, there were a few that really surprised me!
Yogurt – yep, called that one.
Bran – had no idea!
Mushroom – don’t like them – but super interesting to find out.
Chia Seed – what! i consume this every single day!
Yeast, Bakers – intolerance to yeast, not gluten – interesting!
Pear – really? had no clue!
Ginger – again – had no idea!
Cheese, Cheddar – knew it, heart breaking really.
Milk, Cows – 100% knew this.
Coconut – no way! I drink coconut milk daily! That explains a lot!
It’s super reassuring to have a test validate your suspicions but also to raise awareness on foods you didn’t realize were hurting you but actually were!
So how do you know if you have a food intolerance? What are some things to look out for?
- Joint Pain
- Muscle Pain
- Lack of Concentration
- Dry or Itchy Skin
- Other Skin Issues
- Headaches or Migraines
- Abdominal Pain
- Changes in Bowel Habits
And I’ll go on to add anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, inflammation…
Are any of you experiencing of those?
This excerpt from the Everlywell website is super enlightening when it comes to breaking down food allergies, food sensitivities and food intolerances that you might want to give a read!
So, what next? Well, an Elimination Plan would be next!
The first type of elimination diet focuses on foods with high or moderate reactivity first. It is only after those foods are eliminated for several weeks (3 weeks) that they begin to introduce one food back into their diet at a time. If physical symptoms return after re-introduction then you’ve identified a food that you are intolerant to and can choose to avoid it after that. It’s good to wait 3 days before you move onto the next food but simply repeat the process until you’ve reintroduced each of the high or moderate reactivity foods. It is up to you if you want to repeat the process with low reactivity foods as well. I personally think it’s difficult to avoid all 96 foods for weeks at a time.
The second type of elimination diet requires you to remove ALL food with any amount of reactivity (1, 2, or 3) for 30 days. When you begin to reintroduce foods, it is a slow process, and you always start with the class 1 foods first followed by class 2 then 3. The process of reintroduction for each food is the same, and foods are introduced one at a time over 4 days. On day #1, you should eat as much of the food added back as you want. On days #2-4 do not eat that food again but pay close attention to your symptoms. If you are feeling good after 4 days, then start the process over again with the next food. While this type of diet is tedious, it is very accurate at pinpointing which foods are causing you the most symptoms.
IgG reactivity level does not always directly correlate with physical symptoms: some people can have highly reactive foods causing little to no negative symptoms in their body, while others can have mildly reactive foods causing strong negative symptoms in their bodies. Figuring out which foods are problematic for you is the ultimate goal. Elimination diets, such as the ones explained above, are the best way to determine which foods that your IgG reacts to are the ones causing the negative symptoms you experience.
I hope this was helpful, I can’t tell all of you enough have much I recommend this test from Everlywell and how much this knowledge is going to help me going forward. And they were gracious enough to give me a 15% off coupon for my readers if you all want to take this, or any test, on their site as well just use code JENN15 when checking out!