2 min read
Irritable bowel syndrome has been a tricky thing for doctors to diagnose and treat. Many patients are left to fend for themselves, proceeding by trial and error to find things that help their pain and lessen their flare-ups.
Although life is still frustratingly difficult for IBS sufferers, research is helping to clarify possible causes and treatments. A study published last month showed evidence that IBS could be caused by an allergy-like reaction in the gut caused by a prior gut infection.
This is not a complete surprise. The majority of patients report that they experience symptoms after eating certain foods — even though many of these same IBS sufferers do not test positive for food allergies.
The most interesting part of the study is how it helps to explain another common experience of IBS patients: many report that their symptoms first began following an infection — such as food poisoning.
In order to explore the possible connection between IBS, allergy-like symptoms, and prior gut infections, scientists from the KU Leuven Department of Chronic Diseases, Metabolism and Ageing in Leuven, Belgium began by infecting mice with a stomach bug and then fed them a protein found in egg whites — a commonly reported allergen. And once the mice no longer showed signs of infections, they again fed them the egg white protein.
What happened? The mice produced histamine — an immune response — and showed signs of digestive intolerance and pain. Mice that had not been infected with the stomach bug did not have the histamine response.
These scientists believe what they’ve discovered is a mechanism by which IBS patients develop food intolerances and their subsequent symptoms.
To further test their hypothesis, the researchers injected common food allergens — like gluten and dairy — into the intestinal walls of IBS patients. The result was a reaction similar to the one experienced by the mice. And again, non-IBS patients showed no histamine response after being injected.
More research needs to be done on this subject, but this study provides another possible explanation for the pain IBS patients suffer.
And that’s what’s important here: information. It may seem overly simplistic, but information is the thing that is standing between IBS patients and a future free of the syndrome.
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For more on this study, you can check out this press release or access the study itself.