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Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome an Allergy?

Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome an Allergy?

Irritable bowel syndrome can mean an array of symptoms to those who are affected by it. Many report feeling abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, nausea, and it is not uncommon for such symptoms to affect mental health too. IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) can get in the way of someone’s day to day life and cause frustration as there is not a clear cause for why the body is having such a reaction.

This is a very interesting and well written article published in the New York Times from the perspective of a patient who has struggled with IBS.

As she rightly points out, the diagnosis is one of exclusion: she had comprehensive testing all of which came back negative, so that she and her doctor could then better understand and manage her symptoms.

In that same article, she references a recent New England Journal of Medicine which theorizes an allergic basis for IBS.

For those of you without a science background, a skim of the article will give you the gist.

The article illustrates how scientific data based on mice has supported the hypothesis stating that IBS can be onset after infection is introduced to the gut. The infection ultimately causes the gut to become intolerant to antigens found in food that were once consumed without any issues prior to infection. This intolerance can cause any of the symptoms seen in IBS patients. This shows us there is true possibility IBS is a form of allergic reaction localized to the colon similarly to other allergic reactions experienced in the human body.

At this point in time, you can see from the scientific article, that standard allergy testing like our skin “patch” test will probably not identify the culprit or culprits!

After all, in order to test the theory, the food components were tested directly on the intestinal tissue. Whether this translates to humans remains to be seen.




Rothenberg, Marc E. “An Allergic Basis for Abdominal Pain.” New England Journal of Medicine, Edited by Elizabeth G Phimister, vol. 384, no. 22, 2021, pp. 2156–2158.,

Sommer, Constance. “Are My Stomach Problems Really All in My Head?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Dec. 2021,


**Constance Sommer, author of “Are My Stomach Problems Really All in My Head?” has approved the sharing of her article on this website.**

Lizabeth Fiedler, M.D.

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