Reactions to Foods

What are the mechanisms responsible for adverse reactions to foods?

Reactions to foods can occur very rapidly after ingestion, and affect sites distal from the gastrointestinal tract, for example causing hives without causing symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract. It is known that there is bi-directional communication between the immune system and nerves, but it is not clear if the nervous system contributes to food-induced anaphylaxis. We are studying the contribution of the nervous system to gastrointestinal and systemic manifestations of food allergy, and dissecting the pathways of communication between immune cells and nerves.

In addition to allergies caused by IgE antibodies to foods, there are also non-IgE-mediated food allergies that cause delayed symptoms. Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, or FPIES, is a non-IgE-mediated food allergy that is most common in infancy. Ingestion of food allergens (most commonly milk, soy, rice, or oats) results in severe vomiting within hours of ingestion. In collaboration with Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, MD, we are studying the immune basis of these reactions, and the relative contribution of the adaptive and innate immune response to foods in patients with these allergies.

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M. Cecilia Berin, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
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