Abstract A significant proportion of adults believe they suffer from food allergy, and 20–65% of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) attribute their symptoms to something in food that activates an abnormal response. This systematic review evaluates the role of food allergy in aetiology and management of these disorders. Activation of gastrointestinal mucosal immune system may be one of the causative factors in the pathogenesis of functional dyspepsia and IBS. This activation may result from effects of bacterial infection or other luminal factors including commensal microbial flora and food antigens. Some studies have reported on the role of food allergy in IBS; only one epidemiological study on functional dyspepsia and food allergy has been published. The mechanism by which food activates mucosal immune system is uncertain, but food specific IgE and IgG4 appeared to mediate the hypersensitivity reaction in a subgroup of IBS patients. Exclusion diets based on skin prick test, RAST for IgE or IgG4, hypoallergic diet and clinical trials with oral disodium cromoglycate have been conducted, and some success has been reported in a subset of IBS patients. Further well-controlled studies are needed to establish whether food allergy plays a role in the pathophysiology of functional dyspepsia and IBS.