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Food Sensitivity Tests For Interstitial Cystitis: A Dietitian’s Personal Story and Perspective

Updated: May 3


Written by: Beverly Leveque, RD

Reviewed and edited by: Callie Krajcir, RD


Introduction


Finding relief from Interstitial Cystitis (IC) can be a daunting task, and you may have come across various food intolerance lab tests in your search for answers. These include Mediator Release Tests (MRT) with lifestyle, eating, and performance support programs (LEAP), Immunoglobulin G (IgG) blood tests, Electrodermal Testing (EDT), and hair analysis, among others. But with so many options available, it can be hard to know which test, if any, is right for you.


food sensitivity test

Before I dive into the efficacy of food sensitivity tests, specifically for interstitial cystitis, I would like to share my personal experience with food intolerances and testing. My story is not about IC but definitely relatable. After this, we will explore the myths and misconceptions about food intolerance. I'll end the post with a rating score for each food intolerance test, based on efficacy, value, and ease.


A Registered Dietitian's Story


Back when I was a brand new dietitian, life was full. A new job in a new town meant lots of hours spent working, socializing, and exploring the dating scene. The last thing that I had time for was a lengthy elimination diet to find out what was causing my chronic migraines and sinus infections.


Instead, I suffered through many days off work and continued to be in denial that the “healthy diet” I was following might be causing my suffering. Then, a severe kidney infection knocked me off my feet for over a month. That was my wake-up call! I knew I needed to figure out some major dietary and/or lifestyle changes.


If those at-home tests were accessible back then, I would have eagerly taken the opportunity to experiment with every food intolerance test available. However, during the mid-'90s, elimination diets were the sole option for at-home food intolerance testing.

Consequently, I opted for a more costly and uncomfortable approach, skin prick testing. Despite spending thousands of dollars and attending numerous sessions, I was no closer to finding the one culprit.


Instead, I was informed that I was intolerant to over 20 foods and 14 different types of outdoor allergens. I chose to severely restrict my diet and try various seasonal allergy remedies.


A New Perspective


As many IC Warriors know, a life with food restrictions is hard. You miss that happy hour drink with coworkers or a glass of cold orange juice for breakfast. Like many other imperfect humans, I, too, succumbed to the temptations of a very limited diet.

Slowly, I found myself cheating here, there, and everywhere. Eventually, I was back to my regular diet of everything I shouldn’t be eating. But what didn’t come back was the chronic migraines or sinus infections.


Can food intolerances change or go away?


How did my food intolerances just disappear? Would they return in a few months after my body readjusted to my new normal eating habits? I’m happy to report that it has been over 20 years and those intolerances have yet to return.


While lactose intolerance and Celiac disease are typically permanent, some food intolerances, including histamine intolerance, may improve with a low-histamine diet and may even disappear over time.

woman with lactose intolerance gesturing "no" to a glass of milk

According to Harvard Health experts, food sensitivities or intolerances can fade away as our bodies, immune systems, and gut microbiome change over time. What you may not be able to tolerate one day is just a snapshot of your current digestive health, and it's possible for intolerances to improve or even resolve completely with time.


Many IC Warriors enter our signature program, Road to Remission, for the individualized and group support needed to replenish their diets with foods that they have been conditioned to fear. They have been led to believe, like me, that food was the enemy. They come to us with a laundry list of food intolerances, feeling miserable and deprived.


Most of our clients are able to pinpoint their exact lifestyle and food triggers through a thoughtful, supported elimination diet. And for many, this means reintroducing dairy, gluten, and even coffee or chocolate without any IC issues!


Rating the Food Intolerance Tests


Based on the evidence provided from the references below, these are the most common food intolerance testing methods, ranked in order based on the criteria of reliability, value, and ease.


  1. Elimination diet: The elimination diet is considered the gold standard for identifying food intolerances. It's inexpensive, non-invasive, and tailored to the individual's needs, making it highly effective. However, it can be time-consuming and difficult to implement.

  2. Mediator Release Test (MRT): MRT is a blood test that measures the release of mediators in response to a wide range of foods and food chemicals. While there is some evidence to support its use, MRT is a relatively new test, and more research is needed to confirm its efficacy.

  3. Electrodermal testing (EDT): EDT is a non-invasive test that measures the electrical conductivity of the skin in response to different foods. However, there is little scientific evidence to support its use, and it's not widely accepted by the medical community.

  4. IgG testing: IgG testing measures IgG antibodies in response to specific foods. This is the methodology used by most at-home lab testing companies like EverlyWell and Quest Diagnostics. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support its use, and the results can be unreliable and misleading.

  5. Hair analysis: Some practitioners use hair analysis to test for food intolerances, but this method is not widely accepted by the medical community and has little scientific evidence to support its use.


Conclusion On Food Sensitivity Tests For Interstitial Cystitis


In conclusion, while laboratory food intolerance testing is a popular approach for identifying food intolerances, it is not an evidence-based method. These tests may lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions and nutritional deficiencies. A systematic elimination diet followed by a reintroduction phase is a more effective approach to identifying trigger foods while ensuring adequate nutrient intake.


As always, it is important to consult with a Registered Dietitian for individualized guidance on identifying and managing food intolerances. Click here to learn how Road To Remission can help you identify your food sensitivities (if you have any).



References


1. Elimination diet:

  • Kauwell, G. P., & Wills, K. (2015). An Overview of Food Allergies and Intolerances. In Food and Nutrients in Disease Management (pp. 215–233). Humana Press.

  • Skypala, I. J., & Williams, M. (2015). Diagnosis and management of food allergy and intolerance. In Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (Vol. 74, pp. 229–237). Cambridge University Press.

2. Mediator Release Test (MRT):

  • Potter, T. D., Petersen, J. M., & Schaffner, D. W. (2018). The reliability of the LEAP-MRT food sensitivity test results. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 141(2), AB252.

  • Trussell, A., & Brown, S. (2018). Mediator Release Test and food sensitivity: Changes in mediator release on repeat testing. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 141(2), AB251

3. Electrodermal testing (EDT):

  • Kim, E. H., & Kim, T. H. (2014). Electrodermal testing of allergen provocation. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 134(3), 739–740.

  • Elia, J., & Dell'Osso, L. (2019). Electrodermal Testing in Psychiatry: A Critical Review. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 80(1), 18r12308.

4. IgG testing:

  • Food Standards Agency. (2016). Food intolerance testing: Is it reliable?

  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2021). Food Allergy.

5. Hair analysis:

  • Donovan, J. C. (2013). Hair analysis for food intolerance: A review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 26(5), 442–447.

  • British Dietetic Association. (2019). Food intolerance tests.


Please note that while these sources provide some evidence and insight into the efficacy of these testing methods, more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness.



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