Best DNA Tests for Allergies

Updated August 8, 2019

This article was scientifically reviewed by Jessica Bucher

We take the information we share seriously. Review our Editorial Policy Here.

A list of references is also included at the bottom of this article.

Can you get DNA tested for allergies?

Despite improved medical technologies, the prevalence of allergies continues to be an ongoing health problem in America.

In fact, recent statistics compiled by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) show that general allergic diseases have been rising for the past 50 years, and incidence among school children have increased to 40 to 50 percent.

What's in this Guide?

Disclaimer: Before You Read

It is important to know that your genes are not your destiny. There are various environmental and genetic factors working together to shape you. No matter your genetic makeup, maintain ideal blood pressure and glucose levels, avoid harmful alcohol intake, exercise regularly, get regular sleep. And for goodness sake, don't smoke.

Genetics is a quickly changing topic.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America also recently reported that food and nasal allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.

The science related to allergy identification and treatments continues to evolve rapidly. Industry leaders admit that the science for DNA allergy testing for food and other allergens is still in its infancy.

Food allergy is common among children and adults and recent studies have improved the understanding of the genetic mechanism of food allergies. Most food allergies start in childhood, but they can develop at any time of life.

It isn't clear why, but some adults develop an allergy to a food they used to eat with no problem. Sometimes a child outgrows a food allergy only to have it reappear in adulthood.

What is clear is that genetic factors are important in the development of food allergy 1. An increasing number of genes have been candidates for food allergy in recent years.

One of the key discoveries was of the FCER1A gene in 2008. The FCER1A gene encodes the alpha chain of high affinity IgE receptor, which plays a major role in controlling allergic responses 2.

It was found that certain variations of the FCER1A gene decisively influence the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. Elevated IgE levels are associated with allergic disorders 3.

Advancing genotyping and sequencing techniques, along with improved analytical methods are clarifying genetic and environmental factors in development of food allergies.

DNA testing for food allergies is not yet available for consumers and more research is needed before clear correlations can be made.

However, research is uncovering several genes that may influence food allergy. It is clear that there are genetic influences in food allergies.

What is the difference between food sensitivities or food intolerances and a food allergy?

Some people will assume if they have a certain reaction to different types of foods that they have a food allergy.

But science is able to distinguish between levels of severity that a reaction to a food produces. In some cases, a person may only have a food sensitivity or a food intolerance instead of a true food allergy.

The main difference between a sensitivity, intolerance and an allergy is that food allergies cause an immune response.

Food sensitivities or food intolerances do not typically cause an immune response.

The reaction to a food is typically less severe in a food sensitivity or intolerance, while the reaction to a food allergy is more severe and may lead to a fatal consequence of anaphylaxis.

Symptoms of food sensitivity or intolerance can vary widely but are all typically digestive related and will often include gas and bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Because of this, it can be hard to pinpoint when a symptom pops up that it is a food sensitivity and what food it may be attached to.

As a result, it could take some time to understand that a skin issue, headache or even joint pain is actually food related.

Unlike food sensitivities and intolerances, food allergies can be fatal 4. In extreme cases, ingesting or even just touching a small amount of a particular food where an allergy is present can produce a severe reaction.

Food allergy symptoms not only include digestive issues, but skin reactions such as hives, itching and swelling, and anaphylaxis, including difficulty breathing, wheezing, dizziness, and death.

How do DNA tests for sensitivities work?

As we mentioned before, DNA testing, or genetic testing, for food allergies do not yet exist. Several at-home genetic tests for food sensitivities are available to consumers, but are typically not recommended and are not medically valuable.

For a food sensitivity test involving saliva, you swab the inside of your mouth for 30 seconds and pack it into an envelope which is then mailed to a lab for analysis.

Other labs use a finger prick to obtain a blood sample for testing.

The lab then reportedly analyzes several genes that they report are associated with the breakdown of certain foods and nutrients.

IgG testing is sometimes paired with the genetic testing. Some labs offer nutritional guidance as part of the testing.

Benefits of testing your DNA for allergies

There are currently limited benefits to testing your DNA for food sensitivities, and testing may actually do harm.

Eliminating a food based on a DNA food sensitivity test is not typically recommended and may actually be harmful causing nutritional deficiencies.

Are DNA food allergy test results accurate?

Currently, there are no DNA tests available for true food allergies. The DNA tests available are at-home tests claiming to provide information about food sensitivities.

However, the at-home DNA tests typically indicate on their website that the information is not to be used for diagnostic purposes and do not provide any medical information.

Since food sensitivities and food allergies are typically caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors, the usefulness of this testing is unclear at this time. Additional research is needed.

It’s best to use a doctor for a full understanding of your allergies.
A doctor may also recommend additional tests done through their office to better pinpoint allergies before a course of treatment can be determined.

How long does it take to get results?

This depends on the company you use.

Many services provide you with a password protected link to your report and you may also be able to download a copy for your records.

Otherwise, the standard delivery of results will take about one to four weeks (sometimes longer) in most cases.

Some tests are paired with other DNA tests, which may also determine the time it takes to get results.

What will you learn from your DNA Test?

The DNA test for food sensitities will provide results on specific genetic markers supposedly linked to lactose sensitivity, caffeine tolerance, gluten sensitivity, and others.

However, it is important to know that these claims have not been validated and are not for medical or diagnostic decision making.

Determining if a DNA test for food sensitivities or intolerances  is right for you

While you might be curious about certain allergies or intolerances, visiting your doctor to discuss appropriate courses of action is your best bet.

Where can you buy a DNA test for allergies?

DNA testing for allergies is not yet available. DNA testing for food sensitivities is available, but not validated.

Several companies are offering such testing, but the market is frequently changing.

If you are fully aware of the limitations of such testing and still wish to pursue the testing, a quick search online will show the available options.

However, it’s best to still discuss these tests with your physician.

How much are DNA Tests for Food sensitivities and intolerances?

At home tests can run from about $100 and up. There is a chance that any test may be covered partially by insurance but in most cases, at-home tests are not covered by insurance.

Because coverages can vary widely, to determine if a test is covered by your provider, you should contact them directly to find out if some or all of test may be covered based on your circumstances.

Are DNA tests for allergies and food sensitivities FDA approved?

These tests are not currently FDA approved and DNA tests for allergies are not yet available due to lack of understanding of the genes truly involved in food allergies.

What do we know about the genetics of food allergies?

Studies have found that there is a definite genetic component to food allergies.  We know that food allergies are complex traits caused by both interacting genetic factors and environmental factors.

Thus far, several candidate genes have been identified and further research is needed to determine their true impact on food allergies.

The hope would be that in the future, genetic testing for a group of genes and biomarkers would be available.

This could then be helpful for diagnosis, treatment, and possibly prevention of allergies.

Powered by Froala Editor

Referenced Sources

  1. Genetics of Food allergy. 
    Xiumei Hong, Hui-Ju Tsai, and Xiaobin Wang. 01 Dec 2010.
  2. Association of polymorphisms in the promoter region of FCER1A gene with atopic dermatitis, chronic uticaria, asthma, and serum immunoglobulin E levels in a Han Chinese population. Human Immunology.
    Juan Zhoua, Ying Zhoub, Li-hui Lina, Juan Wanga, Xia Penga, Jia Lia, Li Li. 11 December 2011.
  3. Association of Asthma with Serum IgE Levels and Skin-Test Reactivity to Allergens.
    Benjamin Burrows, M.D., Fernando D. Martinez, M.D., Marilyn Halonen, Ph.D., Robert A. Barbee, M.D., and Martha G. Cline, M.S. 02 February 1989.
  4. Fatal and Near-Fatal Anaphylactic Reactions to Food in Children and Adolescents. N Engl J Med.
    Hugh A. Sampson, M.D., Louis Mendelson, M.D., and James P. Rosen, M.D. 06 August 1992.