Food Allergies Linked with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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According to the IBS Treatment Center, most people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome are suffering “at least in part because of an allergic reaction to one or more foods.” But many people with IBS don’t believe they have any food allergies at all.

In fact, they may have even completed basic allergy testing that confirmed that they did not  have any food allergies. How is this possible? Well, standard allergy tests measure IgE reactions that show up right away in a doctor’s office. But most food allergies are actually IgG or IgA reactions that won’t show up until hours or days after ingesting an allergen — aaaaaaaand they are also very IBS-like symptoms: abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation.

Food Allergies Linked with Irritable Bowel Syndromeoriginal photo credit ]

Because many IBS sufferers receive negative allergy test results, they don’t have the same symptoms as a friend with food allergies, and they don’t need to carry an epinephrine injector like their cousin, they have no reason to think they have food allergies. But food allergies can show up at any point in a person’s life, even if they’ve eaten the allergen for years without an issue. 

One recent study determined a potential connection between asthma, nasal allergies, known as allergic rhinitis (the sneezy/watery-eyed reaction to things like pollen, mold, and pets), and the allergic gut. The study participants all had IBS, but those with allergies were more likely to report diarrhea as their main issue, while those without allergies reported the opposite problem (constipation).

A second study also concluded that food allergies play a significant role in IBS with diarrhea. A group of people with IBS and diarrhea (many of who reported suffering after eating specific foods) underwent skin-prick tests for common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, and milk — as well as not-so-common allergens like meats, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Sixty percent of the people’s bodies were “primed to react” to their suspected trigger foods, and 17% of those people had responses like hives, swelling, nausea, vomiting, and asthma symptoms. 

An unrelated researcher agreed food allergies could possibly cause IBS, and added that doctors could potentially ease their patients’ symptoms by instructing them to change their diet.

The IBS Treatment Center says dairy is the food group that commonly causes problems for IBS sufferers. Dairy is found in the obvious spots (milk, cheese, ice cream, sour cream, yogurt) but also not-so-obvious spots like breads, muffins, cookies, soups, salad dressings, chocolate, coffee, and margarine — even chalkalthough you’re probably not about to eat that.

It can be tricky to eliminate foods from your diet because even a speck of an allergen may be enough to trigger your systems, so IBS Treatment Center experts caution that you’ll want to be thorough — cutting out every dairy product and product containing dairy components, for example, rather than just avoiding milk and yogurt — so you’re not wasting your time.


Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

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