In a study at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, researchers claim to have definitively proven a link between an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The most common gastrointestinal disorder in the US, IBS can cause diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating and pain and affects approximately 30 million Americans. Though it is not life-threatening, it can cause severe discomfort and embarrassment for patients.
This study confirmed the results of previous clinical trials that suggested bacteria are major contributors to the development of IBS. Published in the current issue of the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences, the study was the first to link bacteria in the small intestine to IBS using cultures, which is considered the “gold standard” of diagnosis.
The Bacterial Connection
The study examined small intestine cultures from more than 320 subjects to confirm the presence of small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). 37.5 percent of IBS patients were shown to have SIBO, while SIBO was present in less than 10 percent of those without IBS. SIBO was confirmed in 60 percent of IBS sufferers with predominant symptoms of diarrhea, while the incidence was only 27.3 percent in IBS patients who did not suffer from diarrhea.
Past study has confirmed a bacterial role in IBS mostly through the use of breath tests that detect methane, which is produced by the fermentation of bacteria in the gut. But linking bacteria to IBS using cultures provides clear evidence of the bacterial link, confirming previous findings that pointed to bacteria as a key factor in IBS.
Though IBS has historically been treated by addressing lifestyle and dietary factors or medications that impact the contractions of the intestinal muscles, this study proves that antibiotics can provide symptomatic relief for IBS by directly addressing the root issue of bacterial overgrowth. This means that for some patients who suffer from IBS, medications like rifaximin, an antibiotic that is absorbed exclusively in the gut, may be an appropriate form of treatment.
If you suffer from symptoms of IBS, ask your Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates doctor about the role that intestinal bacteria play in the disorder’s development. Studies like this one provide us with more clarity into how to effectively end the discomfort that IBS causes so many people each year.