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Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Oct;46(10):1169-78. doi: 10.3109/00365521.2011.591428. Epub 2011 Jun 17.

Perceived food hypersensitivity: a review of 10 years of interdisciplinary research at a reference center.

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Institute of Medicine, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.


Perceived food hypersensitivity is a prevalent, but poorly understood condition. In this review article, we summarize narratively recent literature including results of our 10 years' interdisciplinary research program dealing with such patients. The patients (more than 400) included in our studies were all adults referred to a university hospital because of gastrointestinal complaints self-attributed to food hypersensitivity. Despite extensive examinations, food allergy was seldom diagnosed. The majority of the patients fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, most suffered from several extra-intestinal health complaints and had considerably impaired quality of life. However, psychological factors could explain only approximately 10% of the variance in the patients' symptom severity and 90% of the variance thus remained unexplained. Intolerance to low-digestible carbohydrates was a common problem and abdominal symptoms were replicated by carbohydrate ingestion. A considerable number of patients showed evidence of immune activation by analyses of B-cell activating factor, dendritic cells and "IgE-armed" mast cells. Multiple factors such as immune activation, disturbed intestinal fermentation, enteric dysmotility, post-infectious changes and "local" allergy in the gut as well as psychological disturbances may play a role in the pathophysiology of perceived food hypersensitivity. Hence, our results support the view that management of these patients should be interdisciplinary.

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