Researchers have found that asthma and food hypersensitivity at age 12 is associated with an increased risk of having irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at 16.
IBS affects more than one in ten people and is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder. It can be extremely disabling for patients, with abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.
There are often difficulties in diagnosing functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, and just one in three people with symptoms of IBS or constipation consult a healthcare professional.
"The associations found in this large study suggests that there is a shared pathophysiology between common allergy-related diseases and adolescent irritable bowel syndrome", said study author Jessica Sjolund from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
"We knew that allergy and immune dysregulation had been suggested to play a role in the development of irritable bowel syndrome, but previous studies on allergy-related diseases and irritable bowel syndrome are contradictory," Sjolund added.
For the study, published in the UEG Journal, the research team analysed the health of 2,770 children from birth to the age of 16.
During the study, children and parents were asked to complete questionnaires regarding asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema and food hypersensitivity at ages 1, 2, 4, 8, 12 and 16 years.
At 16, children answered questions based on the Rome III Questionnaire on Pediatric Gastrointestinal Symptoms, allowing participants to be categorised into IBS, functional abdominal pain and function dyspepsia groups.
Those with IBS at 16 were almost twice as likely to have had asthma at the age of 12 (11.2 per cent vs 6.7 per cent).
Almost half of children with IBS at 16 (40.7 per cent) reported food hypersensitivity at 12 years (compared to 29.2 per cent of children without IBS at 16).
The research also showed that asthma, food hypersensitivity and eczema were all associated with an increased risk of concurrent IBS at 16 years.