What causes IBS? An allergy to gravity is to blame, the scientist theorizes
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may actually be allergic to gravity, scientists suggest.
The the true cause of IBS is unknownbut one scientist thinks it could be due to gravity acting on the intestines in the body.
The abdomen is held in place by muscles and bones, but if the body cannot withstand the force of gravity, it could crush the spine and cause the organs to move downward.
This could lead to IBS symptoms including pain, cramping, lightheadedness and back problems, according to Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of health services research at Cedars-Sinai in California.
Scientists believe that some people are better equipped to deal with the effects of gravity on our organs
It could even cause bacterial overgrowth in the gut – another cause of IBS.
Between 25 and 45 million Americans suffer from this condition, which is more common in women than men. Its main symptoms are abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea and constipation.
Dr. Brennan Spiegel theorizes that some people are just better at handling gravity than others.
WHAT IS IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal disorder that results in abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea and constipation.
The condition affects between 25 and 45 million Americans.
About two out of three of them are women.
Most people get their first symptoms of IBS before the age of 40.
The cause of the disorder is unknown, but it is thought to be due to abnormalities in the intestinal bacteria.
Symptoms can be controlled, but there is no cure for IBS.
Treatment consists of self-care through changes in diet, lifestyle and exercise.
A diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FOMAP) is thought to be effective for people with IBS.
It contains eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables, and avoids dairy products and wheat.
For example, individuals may have a ‘stretchy’ suspension system where the intestines hang down.
Other people have spinal problems that cause the diaphragm to drop or the abdomen to protrude, resulting in a squashed abdomen and can cause mobility issues.
A theory could explain why exercise can help IBS, since exercise strengthens the support system that holds the organs together.
Spiegel’s theory of gravity extends beyond the gut.
He said: ‘Our nervous system also evolved in a world of gravity and this could explain why many people feel ‘butterflies’ in their stomachs when they are anxious.
‘Interestingly, these ‘feelings’ also occur when you fall towards the Earth, like when you fall on a roller coaster or in a turbulent plane.
‘The nerves in the gut are like an ancient G-force detector that alerts us when we’ve experienced – or are about to experience – a dangerous fall. It’s just a hypothesis, but people with IBS might be prone to over-anticipating G-force threats that will never happen.’
People react differently to gravity, Dr Spiegel said, leading to a spectrum of ‘G-force alertness’.
Some will enjoy the hair-raising sensation of falling on a rollercoaster, while others will wish it was over.
Dr Spiegel said other conditions can also be caused by gravity intolerance, including anxiety, depression and chronic fatigue.
He claims that a body that struggles to manage gravity may also have trouble pumping serotonin — dubbed the “love” hormone — and other neurotransmitters in the body.
He said: ‘Dysregulated serotonin can be a form of gravity failure.
‘When serotonin biology is abnormal, people can develop IBS, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. These can be forms of intolerance to gravity.’
Other theories suggest that IBS is a disorder arising from the interaction between the gut and the brain, as behavioral therapy and substances such as serotonin can help.
Another idea is that IBS is caused by harmful bacteria in the gut. Studies show that the condition can be controlled with antibiotics and a diet rich in eggs, meat, grains, and fruits and vegetables.
Gut hypersensitivity, atypical serotonin levels, or a dysregulated nervous system could also be to blame.
More research is needed to test Dr. Spiegel’s idea and look at potential treatments.
dr. Shelly Lu, president of the Women’s Gastroenterology Association and director of the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases at Cedars-Sinai, said the theory is “provocative.”
“The best thing about it is that it’s testable,” she said.
She added: ‘If proven correct, it is a major paradigm shift in the way we think about IBS and possible treatment.’
The hypothesis was published in American Journal of Gastroenterology.