Food Allergies and Genetics: What You Need to Know
Do you feel not quite right after eating certain foods? Maybe dairy upsets your stomach, or gluten makes your gut feel heavy and bloated. Food sensitivities and food allergies can range from mild to life-threatening, and impact the daily lives of millions of Ameicans.
But before you toss out the ice cream in your freezer, or stop eating bread, it’s important to have a better understanding - and some raw data - about your potential food sensitivities or allergies. An at home DNA food sensitivity and allergy test is a good start, although it doesn’t reveal the whole picture. Here’s what you should know before making dramatic changes to what you eat.
How DNA Affects Food Allergies
Everything about you, from your hair color to your health, is influenced by your DNA. Think of DNA as the building blocks of your body - it holds all of your genetic information needed to make and grow you.
Genes are made up of DNA. They have a strong influence on our biological characteristics, including on our health. Genetic scientists have discovered that people who possess a certain gene cluster are at increased risk for food allergies. So, yes, your food sensitivities and allergies can be inherited. The building blocks of these conditions are found in your DNA. But genetics are only one of the factors that influence your reactions to food. Not everyone who has the “allergy gene” will, in fact, have an allergic reaction to certain foods.
This is where the science can get a bit complicated, but the best way to understand it is that some genes can simply lay dormant. If they are not activated by factors like exposure or an immune response, you might never even know you carry the marker for the food allergy or sensitivity they represent.
Do Food Allergies Change Over Time?
Did you grow up without any problems eating lobster, but as an adult have found you’re suddenly allergic to shellfish? Or maybe you couldn’t tolerate milk as a child, but now you can?
Although the building blocks for food allergies and sensitivities are in our DNA, how they present in our bodies can change over time. It’s common for children to grow out of certain allergies, and for adults to develop them later in life.
This is just another example of how genes are one of the factors that influence food allergies and sensitivities. There are many other variables that contribute to allergies, including age, exposure to the allergen, and our body’s immune system.
How to Determine if You Have a Food Allergy or Sensitivity
If certain foods seem to trigger an allergic reaction or simply discomfort when ingested, you should consider taking a food sensitivity test. One way to do this is to order an at-home DNA food allergy test. Follow the instructions, which usually includes sending a sample back to the testing company, and wait for your results.
These tests can tell you if you’re predisposed to having a certain allergy or sensitivity. Note, they do not diagnose an allergy. For that, you’ll want to consult with your doctor.
Another option is to take a lab-based test. An antibody blood test, for example, measures certain antibodies to indicate a possible allergy. There are other lab-based tests including a skin prick test and component testing, and your doctor should recommend the best course of action when it comes to food allergy and sensitivity testing. Generally, taking a combination of two or more of these tests will create a clearer picture of your food sensitivities and allergies than one test alone.
Common Food Allergies and Sensitivities
This is a wide range of foods that can negatively affect the body, but some food allergies and sensitivities affect people at a higher rate than others. Allergies to eggs, milk, peanuts, and shellfish are some of the most common. Sensitivity to lactose or gluten is also common. In fact, some of these reactions to certain foods are so common - and so potentially harmful - that these ingredients are required to be listed on food labels.
If your DNA and allergy testing reveals sensitivities to certain foods, work with your doctor to create a plan for how to manage it.
Take a Deeper Dive Into Your Genetics with Genomelink
At-home DNA testing companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA are excellent resources to get you started exploring your unique genetic makeup. Their tests can give you information about your family history, genetic predispositions (including predisposition to allergies or food sensitivities), and much more. If you do discover a genetic tendency for food allergies, your next step should be to speak with your doctor to get more testing and accurate medical advice on managing them.
Once you have your raw DNA data from an at-home test, there’s a wealth of additional information you can discover with Genomelink. Simply upload your raw DNA data to start receiving tons of new insights. Your personalized Genomelink DNA Dashboard is where you’ll take a deeper dive into your DNA identity, using the latest science to help you explore categories including Physical Traits, Personality, Intelligence, Food and Nutrition, and Fitness are available.
See what you’ll discover and get started for free today.