The Hidden Reasons You Aren’t Feeling Your Best
If you’re suffering from symptoms like fatigue, bloating, swelling, or discomfort, you might have intolerances to food or environmental factors. You can find out with a 5Strands at-home intolerance test.
It’s super easy to get started. You just need to pluck out a few hairs, fill out a postcard, and send your sample. After that, you’ll get an in-depth overview of your food intolerances, nutritional deficiencies, and aversions to environmental factors, all delivered straight to your inbox.
5Strands is different from DNA testing companies that merely detect your disease and deficiency genetic predispositions (i.e., what you might suffer from). Instead, this company uses a method called bioresonance imaging that tells you your actual intolerance status.
Is bioresonance imaging better than DNA testing for intolerances? Which test can best put you on a path to wellness? I took the 5Strands test to answer these questions.
A Few Easy Steps to Better Health
When you order a test kit from 5Strands, you have two options. You can either have a test kit mailed to your door (which is what I did), or you can select a “downloadable kit,” which has instructions for sending in your sample included in your email receipt.
Should you choose the first option, the 5Strands test kit will arrive in a manilla envelope, containing several small items:
- Instructions on a postcard, with lots of text, but easy to understand
- A response card that must be sent back with your sample, which I learned some customers forget to do
- Sample collection (white) and protection (silver) envelopes, which must be placed one within the other
- Prepaid mailing envelope, to send back your sample contained within the other two envelopes
- A group photo of the 5Strands Team
Taking the test was easy enough. I plucked a few hairs from the nape of my neck, put the sample within the white envelope, put the white envelope within the silver envelope, and posted it back in the prepaid envelope along with the response card.
5 Standout Features of 5Strands
1. Food Intolerance Report
This report tests nearly 600 food and beverage items, compared with Everlywell‘s 204 food items and only a few covered in Orig3n’s at-home DNA test.
One advantage of testing so many foods is that you can use it to drive a personalized elimination diet to gradually cross foods off your list while still having plenty of foods left to eat. Although I wasn’t ready to commit to a full elimination diet, my results told me that I’m intolerant to some of the foods I eat regularly, so I could at least eliminate those, and I felt much better for doing so.
2. Environmental Intolerance Report
This report tests for nearly 200 environmental factors that you regularly encounter, such as grasses, trees, animals, fabrics, flowers, dust, and mold. By comparison, Everlywell covers 40 common indoor and outdoor allergens, and CRI Genetics offers even fewer in its DNA Allergy + Health report.
I laughed out loud when I learned that I’m severely intolerant to palm trees since I’d already been complaining about our sago palms. I had swollen scratches all over my arms from the trees even as I read my results.
3. Nutritional Deficiencies Report
The in-depth nutrition report includes over 80 items, and it tells you if you’re deficient in amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and/or fatty acids that may be contributing to your tiredness, hair loss, or dandruff. This is many more items than competitor companies such as Vitagene or Orig3n. Competitor company LetsGetChecked only tests for three items but costs twice as much as 5Strands.
I was somewhat shocked to see that I was severely deficient in Vitamin C despite eating a relatively balanced diet and taking a multivitamin every day. I was also surprised to see that I was severely deficient in tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in poultry (which I eat 4-5 times per week). Unless the report is wrong, it means I should be more careful about not relying on supplements and more careful about not pairing some foods with dairy.
4. Metal and Mineral Imbalances Report
This 60-item report indicates substances you may be exposed to that could be causing skin irritation, digestive issues, mood swings, depression, and a host of other symptoms. This is much more comprehensive than Everlywell’s four-times-more-extensive heavy metals urine test for only seven items.
Out of the 60 items, I had severe overexposure to two metals – antimony and rhenium – which customer support suggested is actually a lot less than the seven-or-so metals (plus some minerals) to which most customers are overexposed. Therefore, my body seems to be doing a good job of clearing itself of extra metals and minerals.
5. Health Tracking Over Time
Unlike DNA testing, which only assesses your lifetime predispositions to the diseases and deficiencies that you “might” suffer from, 5Strands’ bioresonance technology tracks the causes of your current symptoms. You can take the test multiple times – up to quarterly – to see how you’re doing in your efforts to eliminate harmful substances (including some foods).
Reports on Items to Reduce
You should receive an email with a link to your results within seven to ten business days. Sure enough, my results came in eight business days (or 12 days total, including weekends). The 20-page PDF began with some background information followed by a giant, color-coded table.
Please note that I’m only describing the food results here. However, eliminating environmental factors (e.g., pet allergens, metal imbalances, etc.) follows the same process.
To understand what to do with the table, you have to watch a long video, which I found to be less helpful than a simple step-by-step guide would have been. In general, the report contains more data than guidance, and it took me five or six hours to understand my results despite my data analysis experience.
One key point is that the results provide guidelines for an elimination diet. For a few months, you’re meant to cut out all the red (severe) and yellow (moderate) foods, then gradually reintroduce the eliminated foods to see how you react. This is not intended as a long-term diet plan, which is a good thing because the long list of prohibited foods made it look like I wouldn’t be able to eat anything!
The instructional video helped here by suggesting comparing the lists of “possible intolerances” with the “master list” of foods that were tested. This helped me identify the foods I could eat (many fruits) and the food groups that would be best avoided (in my case, dairy). Although I’ve noticed symptoms after eating pasta with cream sauce, or too much ice cream, I always thought I was okay with cheese and yogurt, so the totality of my dairy intolerance was surprising.
A “false negative” is unlikely in this elimination diet. So, if the report gives you a negative result for a specific food (i.e., suggests you can continue to eat it), you are highly unlikely to be intolerant.
A “false positive” is much more likely, with up to 50% chance that you’re tolerant to a food that was listed as an intolerance. That’s why it’s okay to reintroduce some foods.
Looking for groups of positive results can help you identify which items you are most likely to have a true intolerance to. Another example for me was orange vegetables: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash. Since those positive results are clustered together, it decreases the likelihood of a false-positive among the group.
For most categories, I had about a 40% intolerance rate (roughly the estimated false-positive rate). However, in dairy and seafood categories, I was intolerant to nearly 70% of the items tested, suggesting a biological finding.
As suggested in the FAQ section, it’s a good idea to start cutting out the frequently-eaten foods that are on your intolerance risk. I felt better after eliminating dairy, butter, and beef.
“Affordable” Is In Its Name
The logo on 5Strands’ website describes it as “5Strands Affordable Testing,” and its copyright notice reads, © 2019 Affordable Allergy Test. So, in a sense, “affordable” is in the name. But is it affordable by name and affordable by nature?
5Strands’ pricing is simple and straightforward: you purchase the kit for the particular answers you’d like. Depending on the number of factors tested, you can expect to pay between $50 and $150.
There are tests specifically for children, which can help if you have a little picky eater in the family or someone who can’t easily say what’s upsetting their stomach. These tests are priced the same and report on the same factors as the adult versions – so the difference may be in the analysis of the DNA sample or in the recommendations you receive, it’s unclear.
On average, the kits are priced lower than competing kits from companies such as Vitagene and GenoPalate, and also test more biomarkers than other diet and fitness DNA testing companies like Orig3n, CrossDNA, and DNAfit.
When it comes to affordability, it could be a case of “you get what you pay for.” I’d prefer to pay more for one of the competitor tests that include graphs, charts, lists of good food choices, and sometimes even meal plans. In contrast to the other companies, 5Strands requires you to figure a lot of it out for yourself.
Prices are presented in US dollars, and payment options include PayPal, Amazon Pay, and most major credit cards. There are no subscriptions, upgrades, or extras to pay for, apart from the cost of shipping, which is added to the final purchase price.
Information Is There If You Dig Deep Enough
Overall, 5Strands is a customer-friendly company. It boasts a blog, several social media presences, and the ability to contact the company via postal mail, email, or telephone from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm EST, Monday through Friday.
The most important self-support resource is the FAQ section, which contains vital information for decoding your results. For example, my results (shown left, below) told me that I’m not supposed to eat “E464 hydroxypropyl methylcellulose,” but I needed the FAQs (shown right, below) to tell me that this is a thickener/emulsifier/stabilizer.
Since I still had some questions, I also called Customer Support to ask about one of the metals I am overexposed to. The customer service representative simply (and cheerfully) referred me to the “Items Tested” list.
Getting questions answered by email took longer. I sent an email on a Friday, followed up on the following Monday, and received a response on that Wednesday.
The email response once again referred me to the “Items Tested” list, so I searched the list for Rhenium, the metal I had overexposure to. Sure enough, the Items Tested list told me that a possible source of Rhenium exposure was the MRI scans I’d had in recent years.
The conclusion I draw is that the information is there if you dig deep enough into the self-support resources, or if you ask the right questions. However, I don’t think you should have to dig so deep; some of the information should be included in the reports rather than being buried in the FAQs.
Finally, A Diet That Lets Me Consume Bacon, Alcohol, and Noodles
5Strands’ objective is to determine which foods you should eliminate from your diet to identify the root cause of your symptoms. The reviews I’ve read suggest that many people feel noticeably better within a week or two.
The downside is that the personalized elimination diet takes a decent amount of effort, therefore it’s not a good choice for anyone not wanting to make a commitment. Since there are very few personalized elimination diets on the market, 5Strands has carved out a nice niche for itself. And using bioresonance rather than DNA means you can take the test multiple times and track the progress of your results.
On the downside, the amount of guidance isn’t as good as I’d like it to be, and not as good as DNA-based competitors such as Vitagene, Orig3n, or GenoPalate. On the plus side, 5Strands has helped me finally find a diet that lets me consume bacon, alcohol, and noodles!
How accurate is a 5Strands test?
The accuracy of intolerance tests is difficult to calculate. It would entail people adhering to a strict elimination diet for several weeks or months. Unfortunately, that information isn’t available. When it comes to understanding 5Strands accuracy, there are two general things to know:
- Negative results are accurate and reliable. In other words, having a negative result, but actually being intolerant, is highly unlikely. This is why 5Strands recommends eating only foods you have a negative result for as the basis of your elimination diet.
- Allergy/intolerance tests tend to have high false-positive rates, though, up to 50-60%. This would mean having a positive result, but actually having no reactivity to the substance. That’s why it’s ok to try some of the foods again in a couple of months.
The other thing to consider about the 5Strands hair test is the testing method. 5Strands uses (and stands behind the accuracy of) bioresonance testing. It’s highly regarded by some, and called “pseudoscience” by others. Bioresonance testing is an alternative medicine practice based on analyzing energy patterns and wavelengths transferred between all living matters.
How does a 5Strands test work?
Taking a 5Strands test is quite simple and the steps are easy to understand. Just pluck a few hairs from the nape of your neck; pack, seal, and label the envelopes; and drop it off in the mail.
At the lab, a bioresonance device reads your body’s natural energy field using your hair sample. Your personal energy field is compared to a database of foods, drinks, and other substances to see which items might trigger a reaction in you. The higher reading for a specific item, the more sensitive you are. 5Strands then categorizes these numbers into four groups: no sensitivity; and mild, moderate, or severe intolerance. You’ll get these results in your inbox one-to-two weeks later.
Your results will be a list including your mild, moderate, and severe intolerances. Then, you have to go through the master list of items and cross off the moderate or severe intolerances. What’s left on the master list are the foods that do not trigger an intolerance reaction in you, at that time. These are the foods that you should eat.
After eating only the foods on the master list for a few weeks, you can then re-introduce one food at a time from your list of “suspects” – your items categorized as moderate or severe intolerances. If you notice a recurrence of symptoms, remove that item from your diet. If not, continue to include it in moderate amounts. Testing can be repeated as frequently as every three months to base your diet on your most up to date results.
How does 5Strands compare to more well-known competitors?
Two things about 5Strands stand out as different from more well-known competitors:
- 5Strands tests many more markers:
- Nearly six hundred food and beverage items are tested. Competitor Everlywell‘s premium test checks only 204 food items, which is far more than most others on the market.
- Over 80 items are measured in the nutrition report, which is many more items than Vitagene or Orig3n. Plus, the Essential Vitamin Test from LetsGetChecked only tests for three items and costs more than twice as much as 5Strands.
- The metal and mineral imbalances report measures potential overexposure to 60 items. This is also extremely comprehensive compared to other companies, including Everlywell, which offers a heavy metals urine test for only seven items at four times the cost of 5Strands.
- 5Strands uses a different testing method:
- Bioresonance testing is different from DNA testing. DNA testing is widely accepted by the medical community and used in clinical practice. Bioresonance is considered a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAMS) and is not typically used in medical practice.
- One advantage of using bioresonance testing is the ability to repeat testing every few months. Bioresonance testing is believed to give information about how your system is reacting to something in the present moment. On the other hand, your genetic variants remain the same throughout your life.
How much does a 5Strands test cost?
Pricing at 5Strands is lower than many of the DNA-testing competitors, such as Vitagene or GenoPalate. The company also regularly offers discounts that can help you save a little extra money. Starting price for 5Strands is .
One thing that increases the overall value from 5Strands is that it tests a higher number of markers than several diet and fitness DNA testing companies, like Orig3n, CrossDNA, or DNAfit. However, most competitors’ reports include visuals such as graphs and charts, lists of good food choices, and sometimes even meal plans. 5Strands leaves this information for you to figure out.
Who should consider taking a 5Strands test?
Anyone interested in figuring out the underlying causes of their intolerance symptoms should consider taking the 5Strands test. Intolerance symptoms can affect all areas of the body and present in multiple ways:
- Head: headache, mood swings, eye mucus, and runny nose
- Gut: bloating, IBS, water retention, diarrhea
- Body: joint pain, skin irritation, itching, and acne
This test will be best for you when you are committed to figuring out triggers for your symptoms. Learning what your results mean and how to do a personalized elimination diet requires a decent amount of effort. It might not be the right time for this test if you aren’t ready for that commitment.
Few personalized elimination diet guides exist on the market, so 5Strands has a great niche. Plus, the bioresonance method used allows for repeat testing and the ability to track your results over time.