As digestive disorders are increasing, it’s becoming more and more important to get tested for food allergies. Recent regulation has opened options for people to order their own labwork - without always needing to go to the doctor.
Here’s everything you need to know about ordering your own allergy testing - from trustworthy companies to breakdown of prices to what to look for and more.
While almost any doctor can order food allergy testing for you - now you can order that same testing yourself without scheduling an appointment, visiting your doctor, and having them order the testing for you. With direct-to-consumer lab testing, in most states you can now order these exact labs yourselves - in just a few clicks online! You can save hours of your time and the extra cost of the doctor’s appointment. In addition, food allergy testing & reports is relatively simple to read on your own, and you can always get a doctor to look them over afterwards.
However, an innocent google search can quickly lead you down a rabbit hole of hundreds of websites with confusing language, conflicting price points, and sketchy marketing. That’s why we took the time to do the research for you. (P.S. We are not connected to any of these companies and do not receive any kick backs from them - this is just our thoughts on how we’d approach allergy testing for ourselves!)
When you visit a doctor for digestive issues - whether a conventional MD or functional medicine doctor - one of their first questions usually will be whether you’ve been tested for food allergies. Food allergies are different from food sensitivities or intolerances, and testing for each is completely different. Food allergy tests will look to see if your immune system is reacting to a particular food, and these tests are considered scientifically sound and commonly used across medicine. Food sensitivities or intolerances only sometimes involves the immune system and usually aren’t life threatening. Food allergy testing will not necessarily show you food sensitivities or intolerances and vice versa. The science behind testing for food intolerances or sensitivities has not been as scientifically sound (yet) and is rarely recommended by conventional doctors.
Here are a couple good breakdown of the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities / intolerances:
“With a food allergy, the body is making an immune response to the food, and this can be dangerous. With an intolerance or sensitivity, the body may just not be processing or digesting the food appropriately and this is not actually dangerous (although it can obviously be uncomfortable).” - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
“Food sensitivity, also called food intolerance, is often confused with a food allergy. The two conditions can have similar symptoms, but complications can be very different.
A food allergy is an immune system reaction that can affect organs throughout the body. It can cause dangerous health conditions. Food sensitivity is usually much less serious. If you have a food sensitivity, your body can't properly digest a certain food, or a food bothers your digestive system. Symptoms of food sensitivity are mostly limited to digestive problems such as abdominal pain, nausea, gas, and diarrhea.” - U.S. National Library of Medicine
While food allergies are not a comprehensive guide to what foods you should be avoiding (Sensitivities and intolerances are extremely common and can be critical to understand in order to make good, personalized food choices.), they’re a great place to start if you aren’t aware of them. There’s standard testing that can be done, and if there’s any foods you’re allergic to, you’ll almost always need to cut them out entirely (though talk to your doctor).
In this article we lay out the options for food allergy testing. For food sensitivities and intolerances, check out our guide here.
Common ways doctors will determine if you have food allergies is through a blood test or skin prick test.
The blood test requires you to go to a lab and submit blood. Multiple allergens can be tested with one blood sample. You’ll get results in 2-5 days depending on the lab. Blood tests look for IgE (Immunoglobulin E) antibodies that are specific to a certain food. The higher the level of IgE, the more likely you are to have an allergy to that particular food.
The skin prick test is usually done in a doctor’s office (usually an allergist or your primary care physician). Each skin prick will consist of one allergen. Your doctor will rub the allergen on you and prick your skin so a little bit of the allergen gets in your blood. The doctor is looking for bumps (allergic reaction) around the area. You’ll know within 20 to 30 minutes whether you’re reacting or not.
Since you’ll need a doctor for the skin prick test, if you want to order your own allergy testing, you’ll need to do a blood test (considered the safer and more effective method anyway).
It’s simple & can be done in just a few minutes:
We researched the best places to order your own food allergy tests. Here’s the breakdown of the direct-to-consumer testing for IgE blood tests, no doctor needed.
Life Extension: $60, Basic I (LabCorp)
Walk-in-Lab: $92, Allergen Profile Basic Food Blood Test (Quest, LabCorp)
Life Extension: $115, Basic II (LabCorp)
RequestATest, $139 Basic Food Allergy Blood Test (LabCorp, Quest)
Direct Labs: $199, Food Allergy Profile (LabCorp)
Ulta Lab Tests: $227, Food Allergy Profile (Quest)
Health Testing Centers: $306, Basic Food Allergy Profile (LabCorp)
The most common food allergies (90% of all allergies) are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish. Here’s a breakdown of what each test above covers:
When searching on your own, be careful & remember to always read the fine print. Some tests claim they are food allergy, but are actually food sensitivity tests that measure IgG (a different antibody) rather than IgE (the one we are looking for with food allergies).
For example, this at home test is marketed as a “food allergy test”, even though it’s not.
Though this is marketed as a “food safe allergy” test, it is actually a food sensitivity test.
When reading the fine print, you can see it measures IgG antibodies rather than IgE antibodies.
As a rule of thumb, most at-home testing kits are testing IgG instead of IgE. If you’re looking for food allergies, stay away from IgG test.
Can I use insurance?
Yes, you can get IgE tests through your primary care doctor, and in most cases they’ll be at least partially covered by insurance. However, the benefit of ordering it yourself is saving time and convenience.
Where do I get my blood drawn?
All of these labs run through Quest or LabCorp, so you can go to your nearest testing center near you to get it done. Each site has their own “find a lab” tab for patients.
How do these companies work?
These companies have contracted prices with Quest and LabCorp that allow them to be cheaper when patients pay out-of-pocket.
Are all lab companies the same quality?
Yes. All these labs do their testing through CLIA-approved LabCorp or Quest labs, which are the industry leaders in lab testing in the U.S. These are the same companies complete any lab-work ordered by your primary care provider as well.
Are there other direct to consumer lab test companies?
Consumer Reports has done a great overview on different DTC lab companies. However, not all of them do comprehensive functional medicine lab testing. That’s why we created this guide for you!
Note: Direct Testing is not allowed in certain states. (NY, NJ, MD, RI and more) Check to see if your state is allowed.