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Research demonstrates the role of localized mast cell activation in meal-induced abdominal pain.
Up to 20 percent of the world’s population reports having food allergies or intolerances, which can substantially reduce quality of life and contribute to financial burden. Food intolerances, in particular, are especially common among patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), with 84 percent reporting more pronounced symptoms with certain foods.
Food Allergies vs Food Intolerances
Traditionally, allergies have been considered distinct from food intolerances since the former comprise an immunological reaction while the latter involve the digestive system. However, this method of differentiating between the two is illogical. For one, gastrointestinal involvement does not preclude an immune system response, as the gut lining is home to 70% percent of the immune system in the form of GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue.
The immune cells that comprise GALT are far more numerous than those associated with other secondary lymphoid tissues and interact with trillions of gut microbiota community members, including bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes. Interfacing between the host immune system and the digestive tract, GALT plays a crucial role in promoting oral tolerance, the ability to discriminate between friend and foe, and determines whether an individual will experience food allergies or sensitivities.
A 2015 review article in Frontiers of Microbiology summarizes, “GALT is necessary for preventing acute proinflammatory immune responses against the microbiota resulting in inflammatory bowel diseases or against food protein causing food allergy and celiac disease.” In other words, the superficial distinction between the digestive and immune systems is inaccurate and unnecessary, as the two are inextricably linked.