What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome is also called IBS or spastic colon. It is a gastrointestinal disorder that may lead to chronic abdominal pains, discomfort, unusual bloating and constantly altering bowel habits. There are different classes of the disease and it can be classified as IBS-D, IBS-C or IBS-A. The suffix “-D” represents that diarrhea is dominant, “-C” is for constipation while “-A” represents domination of abdominal pain.

During the period in which a person suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, an infectious illness may develop. It could be characterized by fever, vomiting or diarrhea. For the longest time, the syndrome has been diagnosed by its symptoms as clinical tests do not produce any abnormalities. The causes of the disease remain to be unknown but many professionals have suggested that it may be due to a disorder in the interaction between the brain and the GI tract. Others have blamed abnormalities in the immune system to be responsible for the syndrome.

As of now, a cure has not been developed for IBS. However, there exist treatments that relieve the symptoms. Even though IBS does not have an effect on life expectancy, the chronic pains fatigue induced by it can lead a person to suffer from severe depression.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

As mentioned above, IBS is characterized by abdominal pains and discomfort. Other symptoms that help to further classify the syndrome include the following[1]:

  • Spontaneous and urgent desires for bowel movements.
  • Headache
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Depression
  • Backache
  • Anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux

The post infection symptoms may include prolonged fever.

 

Treatment

Since there are is no medicinal cure for IBS, the following treatments help to relieve the symptoms up to a great extent:

Diet: People with IBS may experience food intolerances. A scientific study has shown that a diet with low FODMAP can reduce the symptoms of IBS by over 60%[2]. FODMAPs are identified as short chain carbohydrates, disaccharides and related alcohols that absorb poorly in the small intestine.

Fiber: Research suggests that people suffering from IBS have used fiber supplementation and found it to be considerably effective. It helps both IBS-D and IBS-C patients.

Medication: There are different drugs that are used to treat IBS. They may serve a different purpose. For instance, laxatives are used by IBS-C patients and anti-diarrheals may be used for IBS-D patients. To relieve the pain, there have been cases where morphine was employed[3].

Exercise: A daily exercise routine has been reported to relieve the symptoms in a large number of patients.

The treatments mentioned above are known to ease the syndrome but not cure it. As an alternative, modern science suggests the use of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation to treat the Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Details of the process and why it would work are provided in the next section.

Fecal Microbiota Transplant

What is the IBS’ relation with FMT?

A scientific study has reported the percentage of post infectious IBS to be 30%. It suggests that IBS maybe strongly linked with the intestinal microbiota. Even though the composition of microbiota in IBS patients has not been studied thoroughly, patients with IBS-C have shown an increased concentration of sulphate reducing bacteria.

Since Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) of Fecal Transplant is the infusion of healthy bacteria to balance the levels of this microbiota in the intestine, the likelihood of it being the solution to the long going problem of IBS is considerably high[4].

What is the supporting evidence for FMT?

Although probiotics are able to restore the balance of bacteria in the intestine of IBS patients, over time, their effects wear off as they do not multiply or repopulate. This implies that the disease can return so one would have to keep taking them continuously. FMT may not only prove to be cheaper but also much more effective and beneficial as they are the ultimate human probiotics.

The bacteria from human extracts is able to multiply by itself, therefore it can maintain just the right concentration in the colon. In an experiment, 55 patients suffering from FMT were administered healthy bacteria through Fecal Microbiota Transplant. In response, 36% of the patients were reported to be cured (a high percentage since another cure has not been developed yet), 16% showed decrease symptoms while 47% were not affected at all[5].

In a different experiment, 45 patients were treated with FMT. A significant 89% reported immediate relief in abdominal pains and bloating[6].

 

 

References

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16045602

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2783214

 


[1] Cole JA, Rothman KJ, Cabral HJ, Zhang Y, Farraye FA (2006). “Migraine, fibromyalgia, and depression among people with IBS: a prevalence study”.

[2] Peter R Gibson and Susan J Shepherd (2010). “Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach”.

[3] Talley N (2001). “Serotoninergic neuroenteric modulators”.

[4] Borody, TJ; et.al  “Bowel-flora alteration: a potential cure for inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome?

[5] Borody TJ, George L, Andrews PJ, et al. “Bowel flora alteration: a potential cure of inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome?”

[6] Borody TJ. Bacteriotherapy for chronic fatigue syndrome: a long-term follow up study