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Allergy and the Gut

Bischoff S.C. · Mayer J.H. · Manns M.P.
Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Medical School of Hannover, Hannover, Germany Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2000;121:270–283 (DOI:10.1159/000024340)


There have frequently been doubts as to the relevance of food allergy, in particular as far as the involvement of the intestinal tract is concerned. Several studies, however, have confirmed the existence of allergic reactions in the gut, with an estimated prevalence of about 1–2% in adults. Clinical symptoms are unspecific and include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping and diarrhea. Intestinal mast cells, as well as intestinal eosinophils, have been shown to be involved in the pathogenesis of food-allergy-related enteropathy. In addition to classical IgE-dependent degranulation, further agonists have been demonstrated for mast cell activation, for example IL-4. The methods used to confirm the diagnosis of instestinal allergy are still insufficient. Until now, blinded oral challenge procedures with food antigens have been accepted as the ‘gold standard’ in diagnosing food allergy, although these tests have practical problems. Therefore, new test systems have been developed, such as endoscopic provocation tests, that may improve diagnostic procedures. Elimination diet still presents the main basis of therapy. Aspects to be focused on in the future are the role fo IgE-independent allergic mechanisms in intestinal allergy, the impact of cross-reactivity with other allergens and the relationship to other inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

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