What are Gastrointestinal Disorders?

Some disorders may produce symptoms that are similar to those of food allergies. However, some related digestive diseases are conditions that do not involve IgE (immunoglobulin E), the antibody that causes potentially life-threatening reactions in people with food allergies. 

A person could possibly have both a food allergy and a related condition, such as eosinophilic esophagitis. Patients with allergy-related gastrointestinal disease may often have other allergic diseases, such as eczema or asthma. Our allergists can help with diagnosis of your symptoms and create an individualized treatment plan for you. To make an appointment, please submit an appointment request or call a location near you.

Female doctor checking the throat of a patient

Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)

Our doctors treat many eosinophilic esophagitis patients (EoE). EoE gathers white blood cells called eosinophils in the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach). Inflamed esophageal lining makes meals difficult to swallow.

Age affects symptoms. Feeding problems, irritability, and poor weight gain are common in newborns and toddlers. Older kids have regurgitation, vomiting, heartburn, and “belly ache.” Teens and adults may experience chest pain, trouble swallowing, and food “getting stuck” Some people say that meals take too long and require too much water. They may also feel full quickly and stop eating early.

Once EoE is diagnosed, food allergy testing is conducted to identify the trigger. American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders has more about EoE.

Composition with common food allergens including egg, milk, soya, peanuts, hazelnut, fish, seafood and wheat flour

Food Protein-induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES)

One of the more common allergy-related diseases we treat is milk protein allergy, which typically affects infants after the first few weeks of life. Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome is a serious, non-IgE-mediated type of food allergy.

FPIES is usually triggered by cow’s milk or soy, though some cereal grains, especially rice and oat, and other foods may cause it. The symptoms typically include severe vomiting and diarrhea. Reactions are often delayed by 2-3 hours after the trigger food is eaten.

Standard food allergy tests are not used for diagnosing FPIES. The primary test used to diagnose this disease is an oral food challenge with the suspected trigger food. In most cases, FPIES is resolved by the age of three. More information about FPIES is available from the FPIES Foundation and the International Association for Food Protein Enterocolitis.

Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS)

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS), also known as pollen-food syndrome, is a term used to describe itchy or scratchy mouth symptoms caused by raw fruits or vegetables in people who also have hay fever. Symptoms are typically limited to the mouth.

This reaction is caused by an allergic response to the pollen that crosses over to similar proteins in the foods. Because these proteins are sensitive to heating, most people affected by OAS can eat cooked fruits or vegetables.

Symptoms usually resolve within minutes after the food is swallowed or removed from the mouth, and treatment generally is not necessary. OAS typically presents in older children, teens or young adults. Often, patients have been eating the offending foods without problems for many years.

Common Pollen-Food Associations:

  • Apple
  • Carrot
  • Pear
  • Peach
  • Plum
  • Cherry
  • Almond
  • Hazelnut
  • Tomato
  • Melons
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Kiwi
  • Banana

Food Intolerance

With the exception of celiac disease (see below), food intolerances do not involve the immune system. Although food intolerances may cause some of the same symptoms as a true food allergy, they cannot trigger anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction. Common intolerances include:

Lactose Intolerance

Celiac Disease