The AGA Journals Blog highlights the latest discoveries in gastroenterology and hepatology research.

Special Issue: Food, the Immune System, and the GI Tract

The digestion of food and absorption of nutrients is the principal role of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract—everyone wants to know what we should eat and how it affects our body. Interactions between food and the immune system affect our microbiome, development of food allergies, nutrition, risk for inflammatory disorders or cancer, and even our nervous systems.


These complex interactions are discussed in a special issue of Gastroenterology devoted to food, the immune response, and the GI tract.

In an introduction to the issue, editors Douglas A. Corley and Detlef Schuppan say that a web search on food and cancer produced more than 528 million results. A search for a single dietary element, gluten, produced more than 141 million results, and more than 11,000 articles on this topic are indexed in PubMed. Many people view food selection as a sustainable and non-pharmaceutical method for reducing symptoms of some disorders.

To address the growing interest in this approach, articles in our special issue review the potential roles for diet in development of inflammatory bowel diseases, the effects of food on immunity and the microbiome, and the basic mechanisms of food allergies.

Marc E. Rothenberg describes the molecular, cellular, and genetic bases for treating eosinophilic esophagitis. He states that this unique disease is characterized by food hypersensitivity, genetic factors, early-life exposures, and allergic inflammation. Rothenberg discusses immune regulation and dietary elimination approaches to treating this disorder.

Ciarán P. Kelly et al discuss the diagnosis and management of celiac disease, while Alessio Fasano et al explains the features and possible mechanisms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Two articles provide insights into how food affects the central nervous system: Alastair J. Tulloch et al explain the neural responses to macronutrients, and Michael Camilleri describes how the motor functions of the stomach, such as the rate of emptying and accommodation, convey symptoms of satiation to the brain via peptides and hormones.

Christian C. Abnet et al discuss how specific foods might increase or reduce risk for GI cancers, while Andrew Chan and colleagues explain the role of diet in the development of colorectal cancer, and how dietary modifications could reduce risk for this cancer.

Corley and Schuppan conclude that the issue provides a “tour de force of biologic and clinical data regarding how food impacts health and disease”. The information provided will help researchers identify important questions for future research, and also provide patients and clinicians with evidence-based summaries to guide clinical recommendations.



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Kristine Novak

Kristine Novak

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About The Author:

Dr. Kristine Novak

Dr. Kristine Novak

Dr. Kristine Novak is a science writer and editor based in San Francisco. She has extensive experience covering gastroenterology, hepatology, immunology, oncology, clinical, and biotechnology research discoveries.

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