A while back, I tried a few food sensitivity tests out of curiosity. The results were mixed, with a traditional prick test showing I had no true food allergies, an applied kinesiologist saying I was sensitive to everything, and an at-home blood test flagging me as moderately sensitive to brewer’s yeast, lima beans, and malt.
When I shared my results at work, our team of dietitians was intrigued, but not totally on board with any of the methods I tried. Instead, they feel the MRT® is the best food sensitivity test.
What Is the MRT®?
MRT® stands for Mediator Release Test. This blood test measures your sensitivities to 170 different foods.
Yes, it’s a more expensive test—about $400 with my insurance. But after developing some inflammatory symptoms of my own, I was ready to invest in figuring out my food sensitivities once and for all.
Why is it the best food sensitivity test?
Traditional allergy tests look at something called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE are the antibodies your immune system produces when you have an allergic reaction. Meanwhile, popular food sensitivity tests you can take at home look for Immunoglobulin G (IgG) response, another type of antibody.
However, it turns out that these routes may not provide the most accurate insights.
“IgG tests quantify how much IgG you’re producing to a specific food, with the assumption that high levels of IgG are a bad thing,” Alex Caspero, MA, RD, tells me. “In fact, we don’t know a ton about how these reactions work. But from the research, IgG only plays a minor role in symptoms like GI distress and migraines. Also, IgG testing can’t identify reactions to chemicals like food additives, which is really important in figuring out what’s going on.”
That’s where the MRT® test comes in. “MRT® is an endpoint test,” Alex shares. Instead of just testing for individual antibodies, it measures the change in volume of white cells, providing a better read of your immune system’s response to ingredients.
How Do You Take The MRT®?
You probably won’t find this test popping up in your Instagram ads anytime soon. Instead, you’ll want to seek out the assistance of a registered dietitian who can guide you through the process. I worked with Sarah Greenfield, RD, who helped me order the test from the lab.
Schedule an Appointment
The first step is to schedule a phlebotomist to come to the office and draw my blood. (You can, of course, schedule them to draw your blood elsewhere if your office is less understanding when it comes to nutritional testing.)
Get Potentially Triggering Foods into Your System
“For this or any type of allergy or food sensitivity testing, you want to expose your body to a potential sensitivity so that the test can register the reaction,” Sarah advises. So the night before, I go to Whole Foods to get some foods in my system that I’ve been avoiding.
My small smorgasbord of potential food sensitivity culprits include the likes of:
Get Your Blood Drawn
The next-day blood draw is quick and painless. The phlebotomist fills three small vials of blood and ships them off in a kit to the lab. (If that sounds like a lot, I found it to be a reassurance that this test is thorough. Many at-home kits rely on only three small drops of blood which makes you wonder…)
Then, Sarah receives my results in just a week’s time.
My MRT® Results
The MRT® results are very easy to read. Each food is listed by category, with your body’s reactivity level in a colorful bar. The longer the bar, the more reactive you are to that ingredient. The color of the bar denotes whether your level of reactivity is considered non-reactive (green), moderately reactive (yellow), or highly reactive (red).
Going into the test, I suspect that all grains and some fruits are the problem. (The symptoms I was experiencing had calmed down quite a bit during my keto experiment, during which I avoided these foods.) However, the results shock me!
I do see some moderate reactions with some some grains, including rice and wheat.
Beer also isn’t looking great for me, with hops and brewer’s yeast showing moderate reactions.
Now, the real shock is in my highly reactive results, including soy, sugar, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Say it ain’t so! Broccoli is my favorite vegetable and I roast it literally every week. I’m also a very big fan of the cauliflower gnocchi and pizza crust at Trader Joe’s. Tofu I can do without, but I also know soy is in so many processed foods. As for sugar, I’m a dessert junkie, so this is also a devastating loss—even if I know most of us can do with much less.
What To Do With Your Food Sensitivity Testing Results
So do I have to avoid these foods forever? Not necessarily.
Sarah recommends eliminating the highly and moderately reactive foods for two weeks to give my body a chance to rest. From there, I can reintroduce things slowly to gauge whether my body is better able to tolerate them one at a time. Fortunately, my test results even come with a suggested food reintroduction schedule.
Personally, I’m not crazy about elaborate meal plans, so I decide to forego the highly and moderately reactive foods as much as possible for the time being.
Is the MRT® Worth Taking?
In my opinion, this test was definitely worth the investment. We live in an age in which food eliminations run rampant, and it’s hard to tell what’s safe to eat. I loved that this test told me what my body is personally sensitive to.
But even more importantly, I felt empowered seeing so many delicious foods that were completely non-reactive and safe for me to eat.