For some time the public have been asking us about the relationship between what we eat and the subsequent development of gastrointestinal symptoms. One good example of this is coeliac disease, which affects 1% of the population with the damage occurring in the gut as a result of eating gluten, a protein present in the wheat. More recently a new entity is emerging termed non-coeliac gluten sensitivity which may affect more than 10% of the population.
Food intolerances are reported to be very common affecting up to 40% of individuals who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) type symptoms. A further exciting development is the dietary interventions studies showing benefit to patients with IBS when trying a FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) diet, gluten free diet or probiotics. However one area of confusion for both clinicians and the public alike are the entities of Food Allergy and Food Intolerance. Food allergy is predominantly a childhood diagnosis and is reported to affect 4-7% of children. Making the diagnosis is based on the presence of either an IgE immunoglobulin blood or skin prick test, however crucially patients must also report allergic symptoms. It is possible to have a positive IgE test as a marker of having been sensitised to the allergen but not actually develop an allergic response. Nevertheless we now consider that 1-2% of adults may also have food allergy (for example peanut allergy or seafood allergy). There are at present no tests for food intolerances so distinguishing between food allergy and food intolerance is vital.
The World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) wishes to raise awareness of the relationship between what we eat and gastrointestinal symptoms through its annual public advocacy and awareness campaign, World Digestive Health Day (WDHD). WDHD is celebrated each year on May 29th with associated activities and initiatives continuing throughout and beyond the campaign year. WDHD aims to provide a broad overview on this common association by providing gastroenterologists and, hence their patients and the lay public, with an understanding of the latest basic and clinical research in the role of food in our gut. Diet and the Gut – 'Your Diet and Gut Health’ is the WDHD campaign theme for 2016 and seeks to translate research into clinical practice and facilitate communication between healthcare providers, healthcare payers and the public. We want to ensure that patients receive appropriate dietary and lifestyle advice as well as appropriate investigations and treatment, relevant to their condition whether this is coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, IBS, food intolerance or food allergy. The WGO’s task will be supported by the development of educational and training materials, around the world, in collaboration with WGO Member Societies and by the concurrent development and publication of the WGO Guidelines and Cascades on the management of different conditions where our diet may play a role.
Our colleagues and we from the WDHD 2016 Steering Committee look forward to a productive and successful campaign in providing a global perspective on diet and gut health.
Co-Chair, WDHD 2016
David Sanders, MD
Co-Chair, WDHD 2016
Govind Makharia, MD