Combination of allergic factors can worsen diarrheic irritable bowel syndrome: role of barrier defects and mast cells

Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jan;107(1):75-81. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2011.315. Epub 2011 Sep 20.


Objectives: Recent evidence suggests a role for increased colonic permeability and mucosal mast cell (MC) mediators on symptoms related to the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Whether allergic factors (AFs) are involved in the pathophysiology of IBS is unclear. We addressed the question of the possible influence of an allergic background on IBS symptoms.

Methods: We assessed paracellular permeability, mucosal MCs counts, and spontaneous release of tryptase of colonic biopsy specimens in 34 IBS patients and 15 healthy subjects. The severity of IBS was assessed through self-reported questionnaires. All individuals were tested for the presence of AF, including self-perception of adverse reaction to food, personal and familial history of atopic disease, elevated total or specific immunoglobulin E against food/inhalant antigens, blood eosinophilia, and skin tests.

Results: IBS patients had significant enhanced colonic permeability, higher number of MCs, and spontaneous release of tryptase than healthy subjects. The severity of IBS was significantly correlated with colonic permeability (r=0.48, P=0.004), MCs counts (r=0.36, P=0.03), and tryptase (r=0.48, P=0.01). In 13 IBS patients (38.2%) having at least three AFs, symptoms scores, colonic permeability, MCs counts, and tryptase release by colonic biopsies were significantly higher than in those with less than three AFs. IBS patients with at least three AFs were more prone to diarrhea or alternating symptoms. None AF was found to be predictive of IBS severity.

Conclusions: In IBS patients, the presence of an allergic background correlates with a more severe disease and diarrhea predominance, possibly by enhancing mucosal MC activation and paracellular permeability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Membrane Permeability*
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Diarrhea / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / complications*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / complications*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mast Cells / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Severity of Illness Index