Best DNA Tests for Allergies
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. 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 and as part of this DNA testing for food allergies has made several advancements in recent years. Industry leaders admit that the science for DNA allergy testing for food and other allergens is still in its infancy, but with DNA testing for health, fitness, ancestry and a host of other genetic issues, DNA allergy testing has also benefitted as well.
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. An increasing number of genes have been associated with 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.
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.
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 available for consumers, but there is still much to be explored with the ultimate goal of developing a panel of reliable markers for genetic testing that will greatly improve overall patient care.
What is the difference between food sensitivity, food intolerance 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 differences are found in how and how quickly symptoms manifest themselves.
The main difference between a sensitivity, intolerance and an allergy is that an allergy will manifest itself almost immediately after inhalation or consumption of a particular substance. This can be in as little as five minutes or less.
With food sensitivities and intolerances, symptoms may arrive anywhere between a couple of hours to a couple of days.
Symptoms of food sensitivity can vary widely but are all digestive related and will often include gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping and nausea. It can take up to 72 hours for indications of a certain sensitivity to show up.
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.
Food intolerance can be difficult to distinguish between an allergy because symptoms can overlap and include bloating, migraines and headaches, stomach ache, cough and runny nose, irritable bowels, hives and generally just feeling substandard. Intolerances take place when he body is lacking the necessary digestive enzymes(s) for the certain food.
The body can’t digest the item properly or efficiently take the nutrients from it.
Unlike food sensitivities and intolerances, food allergies can be fatal. 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
In addition to causing more severe reactions, allergies also tend to be a lifelong condition.
How do DNA tests for allergies work?
At home tests literally take five minutes and are safe, non-invasive and easy to use.
For an allergy 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. You go through a similar procedure with a hair sample as well.
Samples are then tested against up to 1,000 possible allergens and you are notified of positive results, either by logging on to a company’s website or by getting test results back in the mail.
This allergy test determines the genetic predisposition to the development of allergies. It will provide information concerning the susceptibility to the development of an allergy and many other issues associated with hypersensitivity of the immune system, including autoimmune diseases.
Just as important, test results can show a patient their predisposition to the development of an allergy before symptoms occur.
In addition to results, tests will normally include an extensive and detailed action plan with advice from accredited nutritionists and other medical professionals. The amount of detail you receive will depend on the company you choose to work with and the outcome of your results.
Many people take food allergy tests when symptoms first appear and it suspected they may have allergies or intolerances, but this test is also recommended to those who do not yet experience allergy symptoms.
Benefits of testing your DNA for allergies
There are several potential benefits to be realized from having your DNA tested for allergies.
Perhaps one of the most important of these is that when you are fighting allergies, your body directs a certain amount of energy to fight the perceived threat. When that happens, your metabolism can be impacted meaning that you’ll feel less energized and that can lead to several other issues.
A lower metabolism makes it harder to shed unwanted pounds. Allergies can lead to chronic inflammation, fluid retention, acne, joint pain, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.
When foods that you are allergic to are eliminated, it can pave the way for significant weight loss as your body rebalances itself in a healthier way. Keep in mind also that being overweight is one of the contributing factors to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Inflammation from any cause can also produce insulin resistance and since insulin is a fat storage hormone, you will end up storing more fat, especially around your midsection.
DNA testing for allergies helps to determine if you have a genotype that favors food allergies as well as also helping you to recognize the early signs of different kinds of allergies. DNA testing can also show which vitamins are shown to reduce the risk of an allergy for your genotype.
Results from a DNA allergy test can also be used as an indicator on whether or not additional medical tests should be performed to see if specific antibodies are present for selected allergens.
When a genotype is detected that favors the development of certain kinds of allergies, you can adjust your diet to prevent the development of these allergies as well as being given other preventative strategies that will help to reduce the development of allergies as well.
Are DNA food allergy test results accurate?
First, it’s important to understand that non-DNA tests can have a wide range of accuracy for results.
Both blood tests and skin prick tests detect the presence of IgE antibodies to specific foods. IgE is short for immunoglobulin E which is the antibody that triggers food allergy symptoms.
Different labs use different brands of blood tests and that may create results that are quite different depending on this variable.
It’s estimated that about 50-60% of all blood and skin prick tests may produce a false positive result. This means that the test shows a positive result for an allergy when one may not actually be present.
It can occur because the test may be measuring your response to undigested food proteins and after digestion, the food protein that enters your bloodstream is no longer detected by your IgE. The test may be detecting proteins that are similar among foods but do not trigger allergic reactions.
For example, you may be allergic to peanuts, but a test may show a positive result for other members of the legume family.
It’s important to understand these limitations of traditional food allergy tests, some of which spill over into DNA food allergy tests.
To get the best and most accurate results for a DNA food allergy test, it’s important to test both hair and saliva.
Be aware that some home allergy tests may have you send in a hair sample instead of a blood sample. Because there is no IgE in hair, results are not going to reflect a true food allergy.
Your best bet is to use a test that requires both hair and saliva samples.
Another limitation is that some kits do not test for specific IgE antibodies, so their results may not reflect an actual food allergy.
Hair keeps track of everything you eat and inhale and stores it securely in its memory. This includes food with the most common allergens such as cow’s milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, wheat, soy, fish, mustard, celery and mollusks.
On the other hand, saliva stores food toxins such as food colors, additives, preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, gelling agents and other foreign substances in your food. As a result, the body’s immune system produces measurable antibodies that work in saliva to stave off these harmful substances.
The bottom line is that no food allergy test is 100% reliable, but among food allergy testing, DNA testing does the best and most accurate job of diagnosing allergies and allergic tendencies.
One last thing to keep in mind regarding results is that they can be difficult to interpret if you use a home allergy test. 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?
Depending on which provider you use and whether or not you choose an expedited results option, you can get results by email in as little as 48 hours.
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.
What will you learn from your DNA Test?
You will learn your body’s sensitivities to the foods you eat and how your DNA can impact your ability to digest certain foods and nutrients.
Armed with this information, you can adjust your diet to avoid a variety of manifestations that a food allergy can produce. Food allergies can produce physical symptoms such as headaches, acne, eczema, dry and itchy skin, bloating, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, joint pain, and migraines.
By fine tuning your diet, you will be able to lead a healthier lifestyle while also losing weight that may have seemed impossible to do prior to a test.
Determining if a DNA test for allergies is right for you
While only about 6 to 10% of people truly have an allergic reaction to things they inhale or ingest, as much as 50% of people are intolerant to some degree or another.
If you are one of these sufferers, then you know what an allergy or intolerance can do to your metabolism quality of life and overall general comfort.
If you’ve experienced some or all of the symptoms associated for food allergies and intolerances, then you could be doing yourself a big favor by getting tested. When specific allergies are identified, you can begin a course of response that may include elimination or ways to boost your response so that any reactions are minimized.
Deciding when to take a test is completely a personal choice. If you’re already experiencing symptoms or have a history of allergic reactions to some foods, then you may be a good candidate for immediate testing.
However, you don’t always have to wait for symptoms to appear. The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure may be a wise strategy to follow.
By getting out in front and identifying allergy issues in advance, you can avoid things before they become a problem.
Keep in mind that tests are minimally invasive, and the results are generally turned around pretty fast. Yes, there can be some costs associated with the tests that you’ll have to absorb, but you need to decide how much discomfort is worth to you and weigh that against the cost of not having that discomfort as you proceed.
Where can you buy a DNA test for allergies?
Several at-home DNA allergy testing brands have emerged in recent years. A check online will bring you a wealth of information.
It’s best to do your research and decide which brand best meets your needs. If you decide to move forward with a home test, it might be a smart idea to ask your doctor about specific products before making a final decision.
There are lots of products on the market, and your doctor will have a more informed opinion about which ones provide the best quality and value.
Ultimately, if you one the best results and the best treatment advice, you should seek out a board-certified or board-eligible allergist. Not only will they know what tests are best for you, they will also provide you with accurate and critical analysis when interpreting the results.
How much are DNA Tests for Allergies?
At home tests can run from about $100 and up. Tests performed in doctor’s offices can run about $300 up to $1000 or more.
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 FDA approved?
Because the science is still evolving and improving, the FDA has not approved any DNA allergy tests yet.
However, some brands have work to create laboratory-developed tests that can operate without FDA guidance. For example, EverlyWell worked with Helix to develop their allergy tests.
Helix’s labs are Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-certified under guidelines from the FDA and accredited by the College of American Pathologists, with tests validated in accordance with those organizations’ requirements.
Progress is being made regarding FDA approval. Recently, the FDA approved the first home DNA tests that let people find out if they have a genetic risk for certain diseases.
This allows home DNA test company 23andMe to directly market its gene tests for 10 diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and some rare blood diseases.
These are the first direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests authorized by the FDA that provide information on an individual’s genetic predisposition to certain medical diseases or conditions. This is a big step forward because it will help people make decisions about lifestyle choices.
23andMe has become the first company to sell regulator-approved genetic predisposition tests directly to consumers.
As part of the approval, the FDA said the test will recommend that customers “speak with a healthcare professional, genetic counselor, or equivalent professional before getting the results of the test.”