UPDATE 1: Genetic DNA details have been add to the end of this post or by clicking HERE.
In an ever-changing world of medicine, there are more and more options available giving a patient control over their own medical information. Although most of us continue to have a primary care physician (PC) and availability to emergency medical care via hospitals, there is now a plethora of personal options people can take advantage of. But make sure you also do your due diligence ensuing said companies are certified and legitimate. Most of us now have a number of urgent care facilities readily available to take walk-in appointments; often priced lower than our own doctor’s office (that is if you can get an appointment in the next six months), and always much lower than the cost of an ER visit. Now, from the comfort of our own home, one can easily and discreetly spit in a small tube, drop the sample in the mail, and in a few weeks, receive information on around 27,000 genetic markers covering both health and ancestry information. What a new and exciting world we live in.
But, what if you wanted your doctor to run a specific test for some reason and they refused. What if it took six to nine months to get an appointment with your PC doctor to only be told that you would need to schedule an appointment with another doctor or testing lab which would add a few more months to your health investigation? I believe this is the void which Everlywell, the company’s test I’m reviewing here, is attempting to address. The company provides a number of various tests covering general wellness, heath, weight, and even some that have specific genetic traits or markers. I personally had never heard of the company until I saw it on Shark Tank a few weeks back and started to do some of my own investigation into their offerings. It just seemed like the next step in the progression of home medicine allowing one to be able to order and receive their own test results.
It should be noted here that the company states clearly in their documentation that they do not diagnose anyone with a given illness or syndrome. The company is one that provides you with a service where tests can be ordered, results posted to your personal portal, and all the necessary documentation in both a personal (layperson) and doctors report. They make it very easy to take the doctor’s report and hand it to your PC for additional discussions, etc. Today they have around nineteen available tests; some specifically directed at one gender or another. Other tests are more generic and can be taken by anyone.
In my case, I have been struggling with chronic fatigue along with a low-grade fever for a few years now. All standard medical test, thankfully, have come back negative, which means that either the right tests have not yet been performed, or my doctor is not looking at the symptoms and knows where to go next. When I saw that Everlywell provided a “Food Sensitivity” test, with the option of adding on some potential genetic details by including the Plus option, I was willing to give it a try in the event all of my issue my stem from food allergies; or at least some of the cause of my fatigue. At the time of this review, the Food Sensitivity test performed by Everlywell is done by providing a blood sample which is run against ninety-six foods commonly found in the Western part of the world. Many common foods are included in the list, however, I found a few that I often consume absent such as chickpeas or olive oil. While a verity of more obscure spices or seasoning were tested. Other reviews I have read spoke of people seeing results for Chickpeas, where mine did not; maybe it depends on the testing facility the sample is sent too. Again, Everlywell can be considered the middleman and they appear to outsource the various tests to labs around the country.
Let me say, the process from ordering online, returning the sample, and receiving my results was painless and well explained. Ordering was a bit confusing at first because I had opted for the additional DNA portion of this test which requires one to sign-up and buy the kit from Helix.com instead of Everlywell. Everlywell partners with Helix to provide only the necessary genetic details for the selected test(s) you have requested, if you opt for the plus option. Again, take note that Helix does not share your entire genetic data with Everlywell, only the portions included with the requested test. One nice aspect of this is that once Helix has performed DNA testing, you can select other “Plus” tests offered by Everlywell and the DNA portion is included at no additional charge because your DAN is already on file at Helix. It appears that any new tests ordered requiring genetic information would be provided by Helix to Everlywell, so the whole process is much faster than the initial test where the Helix results may take from six to eight weeks for the results.
Figure 1: What the test looks like
Once I placed the order, the Food Sensitivity test kit showed up quickly and it was packaged very nicely. One can tell that the company put a lot of thought into the user’s experience; apart from printing which is covered later in this review. After unwrapping and opening the package, you are presented with all the necessary items, along with a few extras needed to perform the test. In my case, the test required me to prick one of my fingers with the provided lance and drop at least three samples on the five spaces provided. I found it easy enough to fill all five spaces hopefully ensuring they had enough to test in the event of one or more problems with the other drops. I performed all the necessary steps on my own in less than five minutes. However, you could involve other to assist if needed. Once you start the test, the company requests that all samples be provided on the same day. I did not have any issues getting enough blood for the test once I lanced my ring finger. Once this is done, you place the sample collection card into the provided bio-hazard bag and seal it. Once sealed, the company provides a postage paid envelope to place the sample in (inside the provided box). When done, you can drop it off at your local post office and wait.
I’m not sure if it was unique to me, but the pre-selected testing facility was located in my state so it took just one day to arrive and be accepted. The company claims that results for this specific test (minus any genetic information) will be provided within five business days upon the sample arriving at the testing location. To my surprise, I received my results in only two days, but again this may be due to the testing facility being more regional to my location. So, from my giving the sample to my receiving actionable results, Everlywell exceed my expectations by doing everything in only a few days. Often just trying to set up an appointment with my PC doctor can take longer than it did for me to have my results in hand. The entire process from ordering, sending, and reporting was streamlined and efficient.
So, you may be asking me, was it worth the money for what you received? For just the information I received about the many foods my body is sensitive to, I would say yes. I do not yet have any results on the additional DNA testing for this text I requested from Helix, but I would expect those to come sometime early in the New Year. Everlywell has been very good a keeping me in the loop when such as when my sample shipped to my house, arrived at the lab, and when my results were ready. I was told that I will also receive an email when they have the extra details on my DNA results. At this time, it is a waiting game.
What did I learn and what can you expect to learn? For the specific test I selected, it involved details of foods which my body potentially has a sensitivity towards. First off, once your results are in, you will be sent an email to login or register for the site to view the details. The dashboard is functional and in many ways minimalistic. An example of what that looks like can be seen below.
Figure 2: Dashboard Example
If you had multiple tests performed, you would have a list of the ones ready to be reviewed like the example above. At this time, I’m not sure if the Plus “+” portion of the test will appear as a separate test or be included in my existing completed test. To view your results, simply click on the completed test and you will be presented with some overall information on the test, etc.
Figure 3: Test High-level Details
Along with the high-level testing details, you are also provided with information about how the test is scored along with a few thought or ideas on next steps.
Figure 4: Category and Classifying Results
In my case, it included the above details. There is also a provided donut chart (below) showing at a high level the percentage of tested foods you may be highly sensitive towards. This section also provided a key below showing how to read the chart. In my case, of the 96 tested foods, five reacted highly, four moderately, 17 mildly, and the remaining 70 were low. I like the way that Everlywell presents the report and the executive level details up front.
Figure 5: Donut Summary Chart
Scrolling down from the chart, you are presented with the foods in one of two different formats. The first (default) is to list the foods in descending order from highest sensitivity to least. The second way to list your results is by food groups (dairy, grains, etc.)
Figure 6: Report Sort Options
It may sound like a simple thing, but this is extremely helpful when looking though all the data provided and focusing in on the food groups or individual foods you may want to avoid.
Figure 7: Severity and Count of foods
Each of the above sections can be expanded to reveal the food, sensitivity level, along with some details on the foods themselves. Below is an example of some of the listed highly reactive foods and you can see a small arrow on the right of each one.
Figure 8: Highly Reactive Foods
By clicking on that arrow next to the specific food, the report expands to gives you additional details on what the food is, where it is commonly found, etc. Below is an example when I click on the Yogurt item.
Figure 9: Food Sensitivity Ranking
Here you are presented with your results and another chart showing where your results fall on the reactivity scale. You are also presented with some details below about yogurt along with potential substitutions; if available.
Figure 10: Additional Food Details
I found the flow of the results page to be quite intuitive and informative. What I though was lacking for a company that put so much effort into getting the packaging, testing, and results to be an effortless process, was finding how to print this data out or save a copy locally for my records. Of note, I’ a technical person and it took some time for me to figure it out. If you try to print from within the browser, you are only presented with a single page, not your entire results. I did notice a “Share” icon, but there was not “Print” icon.
Figure 11: Share Button
Having no other means of printing, I clicked on the “Share” icon just to see what my options were. Maybe I could share the report with only me and in a format which I could print. To my surprise I was presented with a menu of new options for sharing and printing either of two types of available reports.
I do hope the company decides to make a change here, as the button should be listed as a “Print & Share” icon or have two separate icons for these two very different tasks. I can image many others not clicking on the “Share” for privacy reasons and never finding the hidden option to print your reports. I do not think this is deceptively designed to be hard to find, but there should be more thought put into how the user interface (UI) is presented for these two options.
Figure 12: Share and Print Screen
Once I clicked on the “Share” icon, I was given the above image of options. I like that there are two different reports available. One for my one personal use that has may aspects found on the screen when you click to get extra data, while the “For My Doctor” option gives a two-page PDF of just the test facts and results with no extraneous information.
In summary, would I recommend this test to others or even do it again a year or more down the road? My simple answer to that is that I sure would. If the results of the test help me in improving my health and overall quality of living, how can one put a price on that. I have thought of even having one of my children also take the test as they seem to also be impacted by the food they ingest, however currently the company only permits the test on persons over the age of eighteen. If money is a concern, I do not think I would recommend the additional Helix “Plus” option at this time. But, my opinion on this may change once my results come in. Helix, states they are really positioning themselves as a DNA warehouse where companies can partner with them to receive or be given permission to allow access to components of your DNA sequence.
I have begun the process of starting an elimination diet based on the food that came back as either High or Moderate sensitivity. I will say that I have already seen some quick results around my constant low-grade fever and even some extra energy lasting me through the day. It will take time, and remember that no test is a silver bullet. This test is just one piece in your ability to manage and maintain your own health and wellness. Thank you Everlywell for helping me go down this path.
DNA Details Update:
It took nearly 30 additional days to receive my DNA test results back from Helix (Everlywell’s DNA partner). In this time they sequenced, analyzed and then provide the results back to Everlywell which ultimately notified me that they were in for my review.
If you have never had your DNA sequenced for health or other information, it can be a very powerful tool when handled correctly. However, with Helix (as described in my review above), they are permitted to only provide back the specific DNA markers requested for the specific test requested. Be aware that, at the time of this review, there is no way of receiving your RAW DNA results (containing everything) from Helix for your own personal use. This holding my DNA data hostage may change in the future with some of the newer legislation in progress here in the United States.
If you have already had your DNA tested and you have access to the raw details from companies such as 23andMe or Ancestry, I would recommend you use a tool like Prometheus to give you similar information, and so much more! But, the results from something like Prometheus are not as nicely described as in the Everlywell reports; though very narrow and limited.
When you are presented with your DNA results, you will get some introductory details on DNA and why genetics may impact your health.
There was not a lot of information involving one’s DNA as there were with the other aspects relating to general health and wellness in the Everlywell site. It seem to be more an after thought then an integrated solution. I was somewhat disappointed as Everlywell’s other reporting was done quite well. One major flaw I discovered while attempting to print my older food sensitivity blood data along with my new acquired DNA results, either for myself or my doctor, this is not an option currently supported by the Everlywell. When I reported this to the support staff , they responded that I could only export my blood test data for my doctor. DNA report information was still being integrated into their reporting piece; and is still not available at the time of this review (end of Jan 2018). To correct this defect, I was required screen capture and print my reports so I could provide them to my doctor for review. I hope this will be corrected in the near future.
For the additional DNA sequencing cost, this test provides you with the above genetic markers that could impact food sensitivity and general health. As stated earlier, if you have already been DNA tested, I would recommend you not pay the additional cost and look up the markers yourself. If you have not been sequenced or you are not comfortable interpreting this type of data, it may be worth the extra cost to have the above information.
Everlywell clearly marks the items that are considered questionable with a yellow colored urgent symbol, and those that are considered good markers are given a blue check mark. Here you can quickly glance and see the items you may want to drill down to get more details on by simply clicking the “View More Details” section below the marker.
As you can see, there is some good detail provided here and it is mostly clear for even someone who is not sure what they are looking at. In the above image, you can see that the marker relating to one being “Lactose Intolerant” is negative for me (a blue check mark). I can see that “GG” type is the most common in the population and mine being “GA” makes up 27% of the population. It appears that if you had “GG” , you would be considered to have the intolerant genetic marker. So overall I think the information is well presented, but I would have liked more of it.
Apart from the above, there is really nothing else you will get by going with the PLUS option of the Everlywell Food Sensitivity test. I would recommend you take the extra cost of the Helix portion and apply that to either an Ancestry or 23andMe test and dive down the path of reviewing your own raw DNA data. Again, this really depends on your comfort level and willingness to explore and search out your own genetic path.
Hopefully this DNA update was helpful and I wish you the best in all your health endeavors. If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.