I am constantly looking for ways to improve my overall health. I experiment with a variety of supplements (after thoroughly researching them … not after hearing a recommendation on TV or reading the “promises” on the label!), I test things in my own diet so I can recommend them to my clients, and I mix up my workouts to keep my body guessing. I see my acupuncturist, chiropractor, and massage therapist regularly to get their takes on what my body needs. I wake up before 5am to meditate, for goodness sakes!
With all that I do to stay in touch with how I am feeling, I still have the want and need for good, old-fashioned data to tell me exactly how my body is doing. I am a sucker for health testing, and go through many lab tests regularly. My digestion was completely changed with the Alcat food intolerance test, and I now offer that through my health coaching practice. But until now, I have never experimented with at-home blood testing, and I am so glad that has changed!
Julia Cheek is my friend from high school, is a fellow Harvard alum, and shares my passion of helping people improve their own health. When she reached out to me a few months ago about her new company, EverlyWell, I knew she was the real deal, but was admittedly skeptical about the prospect of at-home testing.
In the past several weeks, though, I have spoken with EverlyWell’s Chief Medical Officer (who was also the Founding Medical Director of WellnessFX) several times, have given the team my feedback to improve the product, and have become convinced that at-home testing is a valuable, affordable, and convenient way to get the personalized health data that you want to help you improve your health. I even had a chance to go through the Food Intolerance test panel myself, and want to share my experience with you below!
How the test works
A major promise that EverlyWell makes its clients is that testing will be convenient and simple. Once you select and order a test online, it gets shipped to your home within a few days. Instructions are simple and clear, and the amount of blood needed is pretty minimal (you just have to let it drip on a paper card, and fill up 3 dots that are approximately the size of a penny).
I will admit that I was skeptical of drawing my own blood at home, but after taking a few deep breaths, I pricked myself with the user-friendly lancet. I ended up having to do two pricks to get enough blood, but the company has since upgraded to an even better lancet, and this shouldn’t happen in the future. Even though I was squeamish, it was (truly) painless, and over in 30 seconds. No appointments, no travel, no doctors. So easy!
Once I sent in my sample (in the pre-paid, addressed envelope), I received my results online in another few business days. The results came via email, and were very easy to understand.
The first screen shows an overview of all 96 tested foods, and your reactivity (Class 0, 1, 2, or 3) to each food.
You can then click on an individual food item and see more information, including your exact number (0.231 for apple for me, in the example below), an explanation, a bit of guidance on what to do, and some external links.
EverlyWell is a company that facilitates personalized health testing, not an individualized health coach, doctor, or nutrition counselor. So, you may notice that the guidance on how to eliminate sensitive foods is a bit vague. EverlyWell recommends that you work with a practitioner who can help you interpret and implement your results in a way that is sustainable and helpful for you (and, of course, I am happy to do that).
Overall, I had Class 3 Reactivity to five foods (almonds, egg whites, egg yolks, gluten, and wheat). Unfortunately, I eat almonds and eggs nearly daily, which may actually be part of the problem (see the section below on False Positive Results). I haven’t consciously had gluten in at least a year, and know it doesn’t make me feel great, so this one didn’t surprise me.
I had Class 2 Reactivity to several foods (apple, banana, grapefruit, pear, pineapple, watermelon, barley, malt, rye, green bean, tarragon, mushroom, mustard, peanut, safflower, sunflower, sesame). The remainder were Class 1.
Of all of the results, the most interesting to me were those that appeared as Class 2 or 3 with EverlyWell’s test and had appeared on my Alcat test. These are mustard, almonds, egg whites and yolks, pear, pineapple, barley, malt, and safflower. To me, this is just extra validation that I need to reduce my consumption of these foods. Almonds and eggs are two of my favorite foods in the world, but relying on the same foods over and over again makes us more prone to intolerances, so it is probably a good time for me to rotate off of them for a short time.
I plan to do a trial elimination of each of my Class 2 and 3 foods to see what changes I notice, and I am happy to share results once I do so.
IgG: False Positive Results? (Or, How this food intolerance test is different from Alcat)
When I introduced you to the Alcat test, I stated that IgG tests (like EverlyWell’s) had a lot of false positives. While this is still conceptually true, I want to briefly explain how this happens. Anytime your body comes into contact with something it considers foreign (an antigen), it produces an antibody. This is part of your immune system’s response to protect you from any foreign “invaders.”
The EverlyWell IgG test measures IgG antibodies that are actually in your bloodstream. So, I have IgG antibodies to egg whites, which means my body actually is producing an immune system response to egg whites.
Here is the catch … the immune system response is sometimes activated as an inflammatory response (meaning your body has a bad reaction to the food, and the antibody is trying to help the reaction), and sometimes has a mere exposure response (meaning that your body is just recognizing that you ate the food, like egg whites, and it might not necessarily be causing you problems).
So, in the case of my egg whites, it is possible that the presence of IgG antibodies was my body saying, “Hey Megan, egg whites are not your friend … they are causing inflammation that we are trying to take care of.” It is also possible that my body was saying, “Hey Megan, you have eaten a lot of egg whites lately. All good, just letting you know.” (Of course, this is overly simplified for the sake of understanding).
It is worth noting that there are several foods I ate the day of the test that did not turn out as reactive (for example, avocado and cauliflower). There are also foods that did turn out reactive that I have not had in a long time (for example, gluten and tarragon). So, my opinion (based on my own results and my research) is that the test is valid and informative, although there may be a slight bias towards falsely identifying foods that you have recently eaten as problematic.
Which test should I choose: EverlyWell or Alcat?
I am keeping both tests in my practice for a reason – I think they are both very valuable in different situations!
If you are constantly striving to optimize your health by understanding which foods are causing your body more work to process, if you’re feeling a bit fatigued or having some digestive discomfort, if you don’t know where to start when it comes to food intolerances, or if you just love personalized data like me, I recommend starting with EverlyWell. Its ease and convenience, low price point ($199), and simplicity make it an easy sell.
If, on the other hand, you feel that you have tried everything (including eliminating some of the common triggers) with no results, have already done IgG testing and want something else, need more precise information to guide your food decisions, or want more foods tested (Alcat offers 237 vs. EverlyWell’s 96), I recommend Alcat. It is far more expensive, but it is a top-of-the-line test, and worth it if you are dealing with chronic digestive issues, pain, fatigue, headaches, arthritis, or other frustrating condition.
What other tests are offered?
Everlywell offers more than just a Food Intolerance test! The breadth of tests that can be done from the comfort of your own home is impressive, and I have already recommended a variety of panels to many of my clients. Here is a quick rundown of the tests they currently offer (and I have inside information that some really helpful new additions are in the pipeline!):
- Cardiovascular: a lipid panel (the commonly referenced HDL, or “good cholesterol,” and LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), inflammation marker, Vitamin D level, and blood sugar metrics. $79.
- Women’s Fertility: an extensive look at female hormones (including estradiol, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, and more) as well as a complete thyroid panel (including TSH, free T3, and free T4). Plus, a diurnal cortisol indicator. If you suspect your hormone levels are out of balance, I would highly recommend taking a look at an extensive array of hormones like this instead of just one or two basic markers that you may get from a routine blood draw. $399.
- Metabolism: A basic look at cortisol, TSH, and testosterone. This is a good start, but may leave you wanting more information (in my opinion). $99.
- Inflammation: Vitamin D and CRP. “Inflammation” is such a buzzword in health circles recently, due to its link to a variety of chronic diseases, as well as digestive discomfort, body aches, or a feeling of puffiness. This simple test won’t tell you what is causing the inflammation, but if you are dealing with high levels of inflammation, you can work with someone (like me!) to incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet. $99.
- Elements Panel: If you are worried about heavy metal toxicity, this will tell you your mercury, arsenic, and cadmium levels, while also testing for levels of beneficial minerals like iron and selenium. $199.
A discount for my readers
Because I have enjoyed my experience with EverlyWell and recommend its tests to my audience, I would love to support you through your order. Please use this link to order. In addition, for those who use my discount link, I will offer a single 50-minute consultation to interpret your results at the discounted rate of $149. Please set up this consultation here, and let me know it’s about EverlyWell to get the discounted rate.
As you know, I am not a doctor, and none of this is intended as medical advice. Still, I am qualified as a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist to walk you through your results for any of these tests and work with you to make nutrition tweaks that will help you reach your goals.
Now it’s your turn … Have you ever done at-home health testing? Which test looks most interesting to you?