Stress and food allergy: mechanistic considerations

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2014 Apr;112(4):296-301. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2013.08.002. Epub 2013 Aug 28.


Recent years have seen a marked increase in food allergy prevalence among children, particularly in Western countries, that cannot be explained by genetic factors alone. This has resulted in an increased effort to identify environmental risk factors underlying food allergies and to understand how these factors may be modified through interventions. Food allergy is an immune-mediated adverse reaction to food. Consequently, considerations of candidate risk factors have begun to focus on environmental influences that perturb the healthy development of the emerging immune system during critical periods of development (eg, prenatally and during early childhood), particularly in the gut. Given that psychosocial stress is known to play an important role in other allergic and inflammatory diseases, such as asthma, its potential role in food allergy is a growing area of research. However, research to date has largely focused on animal studies. This review synthesizes relevant animal research and epidemiological data, providing proof of concept for moderating influences of psychological stress on food allergy outcomes in humans. Pathways that may underlie associations between psychosocial stress and the expression of food allergy are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Neuroimmunomodulation
  • Neurosecretory Systems
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*