Food Patch Testing: Relief for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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The IBS Centers for Advanced Food Allergy Testing announce a major advance in the evaluation and treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Their groundbreaking medical study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reports the new use of an old test, skin patch testing by dermatologists, to precisely identify specific foods responsible for irritable bowel syndrome in many individuals.

A groundbreaking medical study using the time-tested diagnostic tool of patch testing, traditionally used by dermatologists to determine causes for the skin rash eczema, has shown its usefulness in identifying foods that trigger irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Dr. Michael Stierstorfer and his research team reported their findings in the March 2013 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (Stierstorfer MB, Sha CT, Sasson M. Food Patch Testing for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. J Am Acad Dermatol 2013;68:377-84), which may represent a major advance in the understanding and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

Stierstorfer, Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of the IBS Centers for Advanced Food Allergy Testing, reports “by applying a number of foods to the skin surface of people with IBS or IBS-like symptoms, we are able to screen for mild poison ivy-like reactions. When the foods causing these reactions are eliminated from the diet, many of these people report significant improvement in their IBS symptoms. It may be that the same allergic reaction detected by these tests on the skin is occurring in the gastrointestinal tract when the same foods are eaten. Inflammation resulting from the allergic reactions in the GI tract can alter normal intestinal function, giving rise to the IBS symptoms.”

This is a completely new type of allergy testing for IBS, unlike the traditional prick and scratch skin testing and blood antibody testing, which have been deemed not helpful in a consensus report issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in 2010. Stierstorfer agrees, stating the search for food antibodies in most cases has “been like barking up the wrong tree, asking the wrong question.” The allergic skin reaction implicated by Stierstorfer’s group involves white blood cell lymphocytes (Type 4 allergy), and is a completely different type of allergy than the antibody-mediated allergies (Type 1 allergy) that have been the focus of prior research.

10 to 15% of Americans suffer from IBS, which consists of unexplained belly discomfort or pain along with constipation, diarrhea or both. Previously, the medical community has felt IBS to be more of a “mental” than physical disease, and there has been no satisfactory treatment. The role of foods has been suspected since 50% of IBS sufferers report foods contribute to their symptoms. Until now, there has been no effective way of identifying which foods are responsible. In their study, Stierstorfer's group tested 51 individuals with IBS or IBS-like symptoms to a panel of 40 select foods and food additives. All who were found to have an allergic skin reaction to one or more of the foods were instructed to avoid eating the foods in question. 27.5% of those participating in the study experienced significant relief from their IBS symptoms when the foods identified by the testing were eliminated from the diet.

The IBS Centers for Advanced Food Allergy Testing are dedicated to helping individuals with IBS identify foods contributing to their condition. The Centers' headquarters are located in North Wales, PA, near Philadelphia. 80 additional carefully selected foods and food additives have been added to the 40 tested in the original study, with the expectation that a greater number of food allergies may be detected and greater number of individuals with IBS may benefit. For more information, contact Dr. Stierstorfer at 215-661-9044 or visit

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