Scientists find a new cause of irritable bowel syndrome

Credit: Sora Shimazaki/ Pexels

In a study from Cedars-Sinai, scientists suggest irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the most common gastrointestinal disorder, may be caused by gravity.

They explain that IBS—and many other conditions—could result from the body’s inability to manage gravity.

The hypothesis describes how the intestines, spine, heart, nerves and brain evolved to manage gravity.

The underlying mechanism of IBS has been puzzling researchers since it was first described over a century ago.

While the disorder affects up to 10% of the world’s population, experts still aren’t sure exactly how or why it develops.

There are, however, several contrasting theories that explain its clinical features. One is that IBS is a gut-brain interaction disorder; evidence shows that neuromodulators and behavioral therapies are effective.

Another theory holds that IBS is driven by abnormalities in the gut microbiome, which can be managed with antibiotics or low fermentable diets.

Other theories suggest that abnormalities in motility, gut hypersensitivity, abnormal serotonin levels or a dysregulated autonomic nervous system cause IBS.

According to the new theory in the study, the body’s systems are constantly pulled downward.

If these systems cannot manage the drag of gravity, then it can cause issues like pain, cramping, lightheadedness, sweating, rapid heartbeat and back issues—all symptoms seen with IBS.

It can even contribute to bacterial overgrowth in the gut, a problem also linked to IBS.

The team says gravity can compress the spine and decrease one’s flexibility. It can also cause organs to shift downward, moving from their proper position.

The body evolved to hoist this load with a set of support structures. If these systems fail, then IBS symptoms can occur along with musculoskeletal problems.

These factors might trigger motility problems or bacterial overgrowth in the gut. This may also help explain why physical therapy and exercise is effective for IBS because these interventions strengthen the support systems.

Another contributor that may play a role in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that may have evolved in part to manage gravity across body systems.

Serotonin is necessary for mood elevation, both metaphorically and literally. Without it, people also would not be able to stand up, maintain balance, circulate blood, or pump intestinal contents against gravity.

Further research is needed to test this approach and the possible treatments.

If you care about health, please read studies about food linked to higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease, and common bowel disease drugs may prevent severe COVID-19.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

The study was conducted by Brennan Spiegel et al and published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

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