Dietary protein enterocolitis generally presents in the 1st year of life with diarrhea, emesis, and irritability. When there is a delay in diagnosis, persistent exposure to the offending dietary antigen leads to increasing enteric inflammation manifesting as bloody diarrhea, anemia, dehydration, and failure to sustain normal patterns of weight gain and growth. The extent of enteric inflammation may be limited to mild proctitis, pancolitis, or true enterocolitis with esophagitis, gastritis, enteropathy, and colitis. The offending antigen is usually cow's milk protein or soy protein. A significant number of the infants are exclusively breast fed, especially those with proctitis. In older children, a wide variety of dietary proteins have been implicated. The inconsistency between allergists and gastroenterologists in the clinical definition of the syndrome remains a significant problem. To the allergist, the definition is based on clinical criteria, allergy testing, and response to double-blind food challenge, whereas to the gastroenterologist, it is defined by histologic criteria and the response of clinical and histologic manifestations to elimination diets. To further complicate the issue, European studies have emphasized the alterations in enteric permeability noted in both enteropathy and enterocolitis. In an effort to establish a unified approach, the International Life Sciences Institute sponsored a workshop in late 1998, which resulted in a document entitled "Classification of Gastrointestinal Disease of Infants and Children Due to Adverse Immunologic Reactions."
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