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Food elimination in IBS: the case for IgG testing remains doubtful
  1. J O Hunter
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J O Hunter
    Addenbrookes Hospital, Box 262, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK; john.hunteraddenbrookes.nhs.uk

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I read with interest the study of a diet for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) based on serum IgG levels to foods (Gut 2004;53:1459–64).

In rigorous elimination diet studies, about one third of IBS patients are found not to have food intolerance.1–3 Yet it appears that everyone tested for food specific IgG in this study had some positive reactions and was therefore subjected to dietary recommendations. This does not in itself suggest that serum IgG is a particularly useful test.

One notable finding of this study appears to be that 87% of patients gave a high level of IgG to yeast. In two large scale studies of IBS using diagnostic elimination diets, the percentages who had a symptomatic reaction to yeast when challenged were 5.5% (out of 73 unselected IBS patients)1 and 12% (out of 122 unselected IBS patients).2 It seems unlikely that yeast causes IBS symptoms in 87% of patients in Manchester but in only 5–12% of patients in Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire. A logical implication is that high levels of IgG against yeast do not, in themselves, reveal anything significant in relation to IBS symptoms.

The same, in my view, would follow for several other foods. The numbers of patients with positive responses to eggs, cow’s milk, and cashew nuts, as judged by IgG levels, are much higher than one would expect from empirical dietary studies,1,2 while the …

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  • Competing interest: None declared for PW and WA. TS is the Academic Supervisor on the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP; http://www.ktponline.org.uk/) between YorkTest and the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York. TS has no commercial interests in the company.

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