Food allergy and the gut
Food allergy develops as a consequence of a failure in oral tolerance, which is a default immune response by the gut-associated lymphoid tissues to ingested antigens that is modified by the gut microbiota. Food allergy is classified on the basis of the involvement of IgE antibodies in allergic pathophysiology, either as classic IgE, mixed pathophysiology or non-IgE-mediated food allergy. Gastrointestinal manifestations of food allergy include emesis, nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, dysphagia, food impaction, protein-losing enteropathy and failure to thrive. Childhood food allergy has a generally favourable prognosis, whereas natural history in adults is not as well known. Elimination of the offending foods from the diet is the current standard of care; however, future therapies focus on gradual reintroduction of foods via oral, sublingual or epicutaneous food immunotherapy. Vaccines, modified hypoallergenic foods and modification of the gut microbiota represent additional approaches to treatment of food allergy.