What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Approximately 10 to 15% of our population has Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  It usually starts during adolescence or early adulthood.  Females are affected more often than males.  Features of IBS include chronic unexplained abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhea and/or constipation and change in stool caliber.  The cause of IBS is unknown, but traditionally is blamed on psychological issues.  This has been questioned by some researchers because of recent evidence of ongoing low-grade gastrointestinal tract inflammation in IBS. Inflammation may disturb normal gastrointestinal activity and result in symptoms of IBS.
Until now, there has been no good explanation for the gastrointestinal tract inflammation.  Prick and scratch tests and commonly ordered antibody blood tests looking for food allergies have generally been determined not to be helpful.  In contrast, recent groundbreaking studies using food patch tests on the skin surface to look for a different type of food allergy not detected by the prick and scratch tests or antibody blood tests have shown promising results and appear to represent a major advance in the understanding of at least one cause for IBS.  (Study 1, Study 2.) These results suggest that the foods causing the allergic skin reactions by patch testing may cause a similar allergic reaction in the gastrointestinal tract when they are eaten, resulting in inflammation of the GI tract lining and the symptoms of IBS. Standard treatments (e.g. laxatives, antidepressants, antispasmodics, and bulking agents) generally have low efficacy and tolerability, making our discovery even more important.