COMMENT:

I like Instagram. I find, in general, it doesn't make me as cranky as other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, because I don't tend to see so much nonsense there - nutritional or otherwise.

But this week I saw something that made me really cranky. "Do you struggle with symptoms like bloating, headaches, lethargy, cramps or more? Let us help find the cause! Test your intolerances today", said the post.

I tapped the "learn more" tab to discover that, for $90, I can get myself tested for intolerances to 400 food items and 325 non-food items. All I have to do is fill in a form and send away a sample of my hair, for "bioresonance hair testing". I'll then be sent a report with my results, a "helpful guide on how to perform an elimination diet" and a 19-page intolerance guide.

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After I'd read the guide, I was feeling my own intolerance coming on - an intolerance to this intolerance testing rort.

This only increased after doing a quick Google search, to find a raft of intolerance and allergy testing on offer via the internet, including blood tests, available to anyone prepared to spend the money.

For the record, actual experts on food allergies and intolerances will tell you that hair testing - bioresonant or not - along with blood tests for IgG response, cytotoxic tests, Vega testing and applied kinesiology - are not proven methods for diagnosing allergies or intolerances.

They are all highly questionable, only reliably proven to part vulnerable people from their money.

And that's what gets me - the way these companies exploit vulnerable people.

Look at that list of symptoms. Lethargy, bloating, headaches, nausea, brain fog. They're catch-all symptoms from which we have all suffered from time to time. They're vague and tricky to attach to a genuine diagnosis, hence probably why many people feel frustrated that the medical system hasn't been able to help them when they present with these issues.

But they do not automatically mean we have a food intolerance. I'd be willing to put money on the fact that no one who signs up for one of these bogus tests ever gets a result back which says "nope, not intolerant to anything". So potentially there are lots of people avoiding lots of foods, at great expense, for no good reason.

Proper diagnosis of food intolerance is difficult and takes time. It involves a properly supervised elimination diet, and the re-introduction of potentially problematic foods. It's not as easy as sending off a bit of hair, unfortunately. But done properly, the results can mean huge improvements for the patient.

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With allergies, it's even more important to get properly tested, and to have proper help with the interpretation of test results. Allergy specialists look very carefully at a patient's history and symptoms alongside their test results.

If you're feeling lethargic, bloated or headachey at the moment it's highly likely to be related to the festive season. But if you're having long-term symptoms, I'd suggest you stay away from Google and start with your doctor.

Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide www.healthyfood.co.nz