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 were intrigued but not totally on board with any of the methods I tried. Instead, they feel the MRT® is the best food sensitivity test. 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.
What Is the MRT®?
MRT stands for Mediator Release Test. The blood test measures your sensitivities to 170 different foods. Here’s what sets it apart.
Traditional allergy tests look at something called Immunoglobulin E (or 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 (or IgG) response – another type of antibody. Here’s why our registered dietitians have caveats about both of these types of tests.
“IgG tests quantify how much IgG you are producing to a specific food with the assumption that high levels of IgG are a bad thing,” HUM Nutritionist, Alex Caspero, 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 IBS 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 explains. Instead of just testing for individual antibodies, it measures the change in volume of white cells. This is a better read of your immune system’s response to ingredients.
How Do You Take It?
You probably won’t this find 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 our Director of Education, Sarah Greenfield, RD, who helps order the test from the lab.
The first step is to schedule a phlebotomist to come to my 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.)
“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 warns me. So the night before I go to Whole Foods to get some foods in my system that I’ve been avoiding. Tofu, beans, grains, sugar, gluten, dairy – indeed, a small smorgasbord of potential food sensitivity culprits.
The blood draw the next day is easy, 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, to me, it was 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.
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 (in green), moderately reactive (in yellow) or highly reactive (in 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 in which I avoided these things.) However, the results shock me!
I do see some moderate reactions with some some grains including rice and wheat.
Beer is also not looking great for me with hops and brewer’s yeast showing moderate reactions.
The real shock is in the 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 am 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 These 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 and then reintroducing things slowly to gauge whether my body is better able to tolerate them one at a time. 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.
To me, this test was definitely worth the investment. We live in an age where 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. Even more importantly, I felt empowered seeing so many delicious foods that were completely non-reactive and safe for me to eat.