Dietary proteins and functional gastrointestinal disorders

Am J Gastroenterol. 2013 May;108(5):728-36. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2013.97. Epub 2013 Apr 9.


Food intolerance is a common complaint amongst patients with functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders (FGIDs), including those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, as well as gastroesophageal reflux disease. Although there has been a longstanding interest in the possible role of food allergy in IBS, there are limited data supporting the association. However, the prevalence of food allergy is sufficiently high that patients with FGID may also have food allergies or hypersensitivities. Food intolerances or sensitivities are reactions to foods, which are not due to immunological mechanisms. Lactose intolerance is common in the general population and can mimic symptoms of FGID or coexist with FGID. As discussed in other articles in this series, other carbohydrate intolerances may be responsible for symptom generation in patients with IBS and perhaps other FGIDs. There is a great interest in the role of a major dietary protein, gluten, in the production of symptoms that are very similar to those of patients with celiac disease without the enteropathy that characterizes celiac disease. Emerging research into a syndrome known as nonceliac gluten sensitivity suggests a heterogeneous condition with some features of celiac disease but often categorized as FGIDs, including IBS. This article summarizes the role of dietary proteins in the symptoms and pathophysiology of FGIDs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis
  • Celiac Disease / immunology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Proteins / immunology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / immunology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Glutens / adverse effects*
  • Glutens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / immunology
  • Lactose Intolerance / complications
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Triticum / adverse effects*
  • Triticum / immunology


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Glutens