The Connection between IBS and Food Allergies

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy describes an adverse immune response to certain food. The most common food allergies in North America include:1

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanut
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Sesame

Food allergies occur in 6% to 8% of children and in fewer adults, 1% to 4%. Food allergies are typically not considered to be the cause of IBS symptoms. Symptoms may occur within less than 2 hours after ingesting the offending food or it may be a slow-onset food allergy that develops within hours or days of ingesting food.2

Symptoms that may develop include:2

  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

The role of food allergies in IBS

The role of food allergies in IBS is unclear, but to date, food allergies and IBS should be considered two distinct conditions.1 Food allergies may be responsible for a small proportion of adults with IBS.2 People with IBS are more likely to report self-perceived food allergies or have a positive skin test for a food allergen.3 People with IBS who develop allergic rhinitis, allergic eczema, or asthma in response to eating certain foods may find that their IBS symptoms are due to a food allergy. If diarrhea is a symptom, it may be helpful to exclude the offending food to improve symptoms.2

The body may respond to an offending by changing the permeability of the intestines, which leads to IBS symptoms. Foods may also induce low-grade inflammation, which may also lead to impaired permeability in people with IBS.4

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Written by: Truc Thanh | Last reviewed: June 2016.