Irritable Bowel Syndrome – It’s REAL And Not In Your Head

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Proof: Irritable Bowel Syndrome Is Not “In Your Head”

Science Daily, August 2010. The distressing complex of symptoms known as irritable bowel syndrome is quite common – an estimated 10% of the population suffers from recurrent gas, constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea that until recently have not been shown to have an identifiable physical cause. As a result of this, many IBS sufferers have also had to deal with the label of “hypochondriac”.

However, a team of German biologists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) have succeeded in discovering tiny inflammations in the mucous lining of the gut, which have the effect of disrupting the sensitive balance of the bowel, and making the whole enteric nervous system hypersensitive.

The symptoms are more than just annoying, and constant trips to the bathroom can by joined by headache, backache, and sleep disturbance. Seven million Germans are estimated to have IBS. The suspicion of hypochondria, and the fact that attempts to treat the problem have been derailed because no organic cause could be shown, has made matters harder for both sufferers and their doctors. The Munich study changes this by identifying previously hidden causes.

The TUM research team, headed by Prof. Michael Schemann, used ultra-fast optical measuring techniques to show that an IBS patient’s enteric nervous system is sensitized by tiny inflammations of the gut’s mucous lining. Specifically, mediators from mast cells and enterochromaffin cells activate the bowel’s nerve cells, and the resulting hypersensivity gets in the way of normal interaction between the mucous membranes and their nerves. Professor Schemann says, “The irritated mucosa releases increased amounts of neuroactive substances such as serotonin, histamine and protease. This cocktail produced by the body could be the real cause of the unpleasant IBS complaints.”

This study is, and is leading to, cutting edge research in human biology. The Munich researchers are currently studying the correlation between the degree of nerve sensitization and the severity of symptoms experienced by the patient. Collaborating with colleagues from Amsterdam, they have been able to show the importance of their initial results on the clinical level. IBS symptoms have successfully been improved after patients received an antihistamine with known immune-stabilizing properties when used for treating allergies like hay fever. With support funding from the German Research foundation (DFG) the team is seeking correlations between symptom improvement and possible improvement of gut nerve activity.

If they are able to identify the active components of IBS, drugs can be developed that can treat this common and painful disease. Even at this early stage, IBS suffers are getting some relief from the Munich team’s proof that irritable bowel syndrom is not “in their heads”.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Technische Universitaet Muenchen.

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