The Coca Pulse Test: Easy DIY Food Sensitivity and Allergy Testing

The Coca Pulse Test is the simplest way to discern food sensitivities. Here’s how it works: You place one ingredient on your tongue, measure your pulse, and compare it to your resting pulse rate. If your pulse significantly increases or decreases, the food is stressing your nervous system and altering your heartbeat. It is noxious to you; spit it out.

How amazing are our body’s defense mechanisms! That within seconds a seemingly innocuous bite of bread triggers alarm bells if you are gluten-intolerant. Indeed, your body knows its personal “good” and “bad.” Our opportunity is to learn to read the cues and respond accordingly. Let us be in sync with rather than work at odds against ourselves.

In 1956, the prestigious immunologist Arthur F. Coca, MD, developed this invaluable technique. His book, The Pulse Test, is in the public domain and available as a free download. I have simplified his steps below, but first, let’s look at your other options for identifying allergenic foods.

Other Effective, Semi-effective and Ineffective Tests for Sensitivities

While an elimination diet is the gold standard for identification, it requires diligence over the long haul. Muscle testing (aka kinesiology) has some value but depends upon the skill of the person doing the testing. The least effective test for sensitivities is lab analyses; they are notoriously inaccurate. Many of my clients have been misguided by faulty lab analyses and were set back from realizing their health goals. That’s sad, and unnecessary. Fortunately, pulse reading is quick and easy.

Four Ways to Measure Your Pulse

  • Fitbit-type activity tracker
  • Blood pressure cuff that also read pulses
  • Oximeter that is clipped to your fingertip and displays your pulse. They cost under $20 and are the most economical option.
  • Your first two fingertips: Place them gently on your carotid artery to the outside of your windpipe or on the inside of your wrist below your thumb and count the beats.

The Coca Pulse Test

Whichever method you use to read your pulse, do so when you are relaxed and seated, but not following a meal or physical exertion. Have a stopwatch, pencil and paper at hand. Set out one or more single ingredient foods, beverages, or supplements to test. For example, to test for wheat, taste 100% wheat pasta rather than a wheat bread with multiple ingredients.

The number of pulse beats counted in one minute is your resting pulse rate (normal pulses average from 60 to 100 beats per minute). The pulse can differ from your left to right side, so read the pulse on the same side for the whole testing session.

Gently regulate your breathing. The pulse is variable, so to establish your resting pulse rate, measure it for a full 60 seconds to give it time to settle. If you are counting the beats you feel on your fingertips, then count every beat for a full 60 seconds (rather than reading it for 15 or 30 seconds and then multiplying it by, respectively, 4 or 2).

Now, moving slowly (rapid movement triggers pulse variation), place the test ingredient on your tongue and either chew it or roll it around for 30 seconds; do not swallow. Now read your pulse for another full 60 seconds. If the food stresses you, your pulse will increase. A pulse shift of four or more beats per second indicates a sensitivity or allergy to that food. (If you have O blood type, then a shift of three or more beats per second denotes a reaction.) The greater the pulse variation, the more toxic the food you are testing is to you.

If you react to the food, spit it out and rinse your mouth with water. If there was no reaction and/or if you wait until your pulse has returned to your resting pulse rate, you may continue to test other ingredients.

If you have a sense that there is a food that doesn’t agree with you, I invite you to try this test. Having a definitive answer is empowering.

Note: The Coca Pulse Test may not be effective if you’re taking medications that control your heart rate such as calcium channel blockers or beta-blockers.

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