Bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, disturbed bowel habits are very common symptoms, frequently reported by the patients soon after food ingestion. These symptoms may occur in different clinical conditions, such as functional bowel disorders, food adverse reactions, gluten-related syndromes, which frequently are interrelated. Consequently, in clinical practice, it is necessary to perform a correct diagnosis in order to identify, for the single patient, the most appropriate therapeutic strategy, which may include not only specific drugs, but also, and mainly, life style changes (healthy nutritional behavior and constant physical activity).

The aim of this review is to provide to the general physician, according to the available evidence, the most appropriate diagnostic work-ups for recognizing the different clinical scenarios (i.e. food allergy and intolerance, functional bowel diseases, gluten-related syndromes), to identify their clinical interrelationships and to suggest the most appropriate management. In fact, as far as food intolerances are concerned, it is well known that the number of patients who believe that their symptoms are related to food intolerance is increasing and consequently they restrict their diet, possibly causing nutritional deficiencies. Furthermore, there is an increasing use of unconventional diagnostic tests for food intolerance which lack accurate scientific evidence; the application of their results may induce misdiagnosis and unhealthy therapeutic choices. Consequently the recognition of food intolerance has to be performed on the basis of reliable tests within an agreed diagnostic workup.


food intolerance, food allergy, functional gastrointestinal disease, FODMAPs, gluten sensitivity