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The Gut – Brain Connection to Irritable Bowel Syndrome!

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The Gut – Brain Connection to Irritable Bowel Syndrome!


In a recent Atlantic article about IBS Irritable bowel syndrome the author describes Irritable bowel Syndrome (IBS) like this; “imagine waking up feeling so bloated you have to search for pants that will specifically fit over your distended stomach, and then hope no one get to close to you because your stomach sounds like a cacophony of buzzes and shrieks.”


IBS is a condition that causes constipation or diarrhea (or both) along with cramps, bloating, and gas. For most sufferers the symptoms can be debilitating and will often interfere with work and other activities. IBS affects approximately 24 million people in the US, of which 70% of sufferers are women, and so far we don’t know what causes it or how to treat it.


While the cause is unknown, there has been considerable research to date.  Some of the possible causes relates to the “gut – brain” connection. For example, in a recent study scientists suggest the connection between IBS and a neurological imbalance.  One theory that is gaining prominence explains IBS as an imbalance of serotonin in the gut. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter used by our brain and nervous system to help transmit signals. Serotonin is also associated with mood, and most antidepressant drugs work by increasing Serotonin levels in the brain.  Interestingly, 90% of the serotonin in our bodies resides in our gastrointestinal tract (GI) where it also helps control gut movement.


Based on this theory there is a new approach to treating IBS that uses drugs that alter the action of serotonin in the GI. FDA trails with two drugs, Alosetron (Lotronex) and Tegaserod (Zelnorm), showed some promise. Lotronex decreases the effect of serotonin, and early trials showed that Lotronex was effective at treating IBS diarrhea symptoms. Zelnorm, a drug that increases the effect of Serotonin, was best at treating IBS where constipation was the primary symptom. These observations clearly show that a serotonin imbalance and drugs that effect serotonin levels showed promise.  Unfortunately, both drugs failed in trials due to other side effects.


The connection between serotonin and IBS symptoms is further reinforced by studying the side effects common to many anti-depressant drugs. Drugs like Prozac, Celexa, and Effexor, which all work by enhancing the effect of serotonin, all list diarrhea as a common side effect. The research team at SuperBio is digging deeper into IBS and the gut – brain link to better understand our customers.  Customers with IBS symptoms, customers who are taking serotonin enhancing drugs and how if at all, we can help customers, possibly with diet changes and probiotics, to deal better with stress/serotonin caused digestive problems.