As you reintroduce foods on the GAPS™ Intro Diet you might feel nervous about trying the things that you were sensitive to before, based on reactions you’ve had or blood test results. Dr. Natasha recommends Skin Sensitivity Testing as a simple way to tell if you react to a food. I find that it identifies more severe reactions, but I’d like to share another free test for food intolerances that can help you identify more mild reactions.
It’s a Pulse Test and it’s a variation on what was discovered by a man named Dr. Coca, whose wife had severe reactions to medications and certain foods, and noticed that with each reaction her pulse would accelerate. That sparked his theory that when we’re allergic to something it causes a stress response in our body, which raises our pulse. He went on to test this theory with numerous people and all kinds of foods over several years, publishing his findings in a book called The Pulse Test in 1956.
I’m sharing the simplified version of The Pulse Test that you can do by yourself in 2 ½ minutes to learn if you have a reaction or intolerance to a particular food or supplement. Yes, it’s really that quick!
The Pulse Test
A Note of Caution: This test might not give you accurate results if you’re taking a drug that controls your heart rate, like a calcium-channel blocker or a beta-blocker.
Step 1. Gather a pen, piece of paper, and a clock or watch with a second hand, or a stopwatch app on your mobile phone. Have your ‘test food’ within reach when you begin the test.
Step 2. Sit down, take a deep breath, and relax. Start when your heart rate is at a normal pace, not when you’ve been running around, or soon after exercising.
Step 3. Determine your starting pulse by counting your heart beat for a full minute. You can use your wrist or your neck, as long as you take it on the same place each time. Write down your ‘before’ pulse.
Step 4. Take a bite of food and chew it, making sure it hits all your taste buds, but don’t swallow it. You can also do this with a drink or a supplement, if it’s safe to chew on it. Make sure you taste it for at least 30 seconds, because the taste is what informs your central nervous system, which makes the snap judgment on whether this food is ‘safe’ for you or not. If this food is seen as stressful for your body, your pulse will elevate briefly.
For the most telling results, test one food at a time. You can test a food with multiple ingredients, but to narrow down which is the real culprit you’ll need to test them individually. So for instance if you test a GAPS Pancake, are you reacting to the type of nut, squash, ghee, honey, salt, or a spice?
Step 5. Take your pulse for 1 full minute again, while holding the food in your mouth, and write down your ‘after’ pulse.
An increase of 4 or more beats is considered the result of a stressful reaction. For those with Type O Blood, an increase of 3 or more is considered a stressful reaction – some of us are just more sensitive than others. The bigger the pulse change, the more stressful your body considers this food. I’ve seen reactions with an increase of 10 or 20 beats per minute.
If you have a stressful reaction to a food, leave it out for about 6 weeks. Allow more healing to happen on the GAPS Diet, and then you can try the Pulse Test again to see if your reaction has changed.
Step 6. Spit out the food you’re testing if you plan to test another food right away.
You can do the Pulse Test with as many things as you’d like, as long as you wait for your pulse to return to your ‘before’ rate prior to testing the next food.
If you reacted to a certain food, it helps to rinse your mouth out with filtered water, and then spit the water out. Then wait about two minutes and retest your pulse to see if it has returned to its starting rate. If it hasn’t, wait another couple of minutes and try again. It doesn’t usually take super-long.
Note: You must take a full one-minute pulse each time. Taking a 15 second pulse and multiplying it by 4 won’t work because the variation in your pulse can happen at any time during that minute. I’ve had experiences where my pulse feels nice and steady and about half way through the minute my pulse rate jumps very suddenly.
I’m kind of geeky, and one Saturday morning when I didn’t have plans, I tested my entire breakfast meal with The Pulse Test. I was really disappointed when I reacted to eggs. I’ve always felt that eggs revitalize me, so the next day I retested eggs, this time cooking them in butter, whereas the first day I had cooked them in bacon grease. As it turned out, it was actually the bacon that I was reactive to and not the egg (which still made me sad, but not as much).
Your mission now, should you choose to accept it, is to use this Pulse Test on one food today! It can be something you know you have a problem with, or any old thing just to experiment. If you figure out something interesting, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your findings and insights!