Self-reported Food Intolerance in Korean Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2019 Apr 30;25(2):222-232. doi: 10.5056/jnm18125.


Background/aims: Various foods trigger and/or worsen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, Korean food-related gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in IBS patients have not yet been investigated. This study aims to evaluate the prevalence of self-reported food intolerance in Korean IBS patients and determine the Korean food items and food groups perceived by patients to worsen their GI symptoms.

Methods: We recruited 393 study subjects, comprising 101 IBS patients, 167 symptomatic non-IBS subjects, and 125 control subjects. All participants completed a questionnaire to identify the most problematic foods and assess the occurrence of GI symptoms caused by 119 Korean food items. They also completed the validated Rome III questionnaire for IBS.

Results: The prevalence of self-reported food intolerance in Korean IBS patients was 79.2%, which was significantly higher than that in control subjects (44.8%, P < 0.001). The most problematic foods reported by IBS patients who experienced food intolerance were high-fat foods (25.0%), gluten foods (23.8%), spicy foods (15.0%), and dairy products (15.0%). A total of 63.4% of IBS patients reported GI symptoms related to the consumption of foods high in fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols (FODMAP), while 48.5% of IBS patients reported symptoms associated with high-fat foods. Gas problems and loose stools were the most frequently reported symptoms.

Conclusions: A large proportion of Korean IBS patients complained of intolerance to certain food items, with high-fat and high-FODMAP foods being the main triggers. This study provides a basis for planning food intervention studies for Korean IBS patients.

Keywords: Diet; Food intolerance; Irritable bowel syndrome; Surveys and questionnaires.