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New Studies Look at Potential Causes, Impacts and Treatments for IBS

As both an IBS patient and a health writer and journalist, I try to keep current on the latest scientific studies and findings regarding my disorder. Sometimes other commitments and priorities cause me to slip a bit, but blogging here has had the added benefit of giving me more reason to stay up to date on what is going on in the world of IBS research.

I recently stumbled upon a couple of interesting studies that spoke to potential impacts and causes of IBS, as well as a prospective treatment.

Immune cells

The first study I found was released just earlier this summer from Adelaide Medical School of the University of Adelaide, which is a member of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). In particular, the study discovered that those patients with IBS-D (that is, IBS that is mostly characterized by bouts of diarrhea) were prone to experienced “exhausted” immune cells, known as T cells.1

What does this mean? Well, it implies that IBS-D can actually deplete and stress our bodies’ immune cells and potentially compromise our immune system. In some ways, this probably makes a lot of sense to those of us who have had IBS-D for awhile. The full findings of the study were published in the international peer review journal, Gut.

While this study doesn’t established any precedent for a treatment, it can be validating for those of us with IBS-D to know other issues with our immune system function are not imagined. I would also be curious as to what extent this T cell exhaustion is a result of IBS-D rather than a cause of it. This study seemed to indicate it is a result, but I wouldn’t be surprised if subsequent studies established immune cells may be experiencing exhaustion prior to developing IBS-D.

Acids in stool

The second study I came across was actually from further back, in 2016. This research, which was initiated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), examined stool samples from individuals with IBS and compared them to samples from those with IBS. They found that the IBS patients had lower levels butyric acid but higher levels of propionic acid in their stool. This not only means that the proportion of the two acids in stool could be used as a potential diagnostic tool, but that butyric acid may have the potential to serve as a treatment for IBS.2

To that end, the Swedish Research Council offered a researcher $290,000 in 2017 from the Swedish Research Council to study the impacts of butyric acid on the gut and gauges it effectiveness in treating IBS.3

While results haven’t come out yet, it might offer some hope to IBS patients where other treatment options have failed them.

Have you heard of any interesting or hopeful research on the IBS front? Feel free to share in the comments below.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Mavrangelos C, Melissa. Longitudinal analysis indicates symptom severity influences immune profile in irritable bowel syndrome. Gut. Published February 1, 2018.
  2. G. Farup, Knut Rudi. Faecal short-chain fatty acids - a diagnostic biomarker for irritable bowel syndrome? BMC Gastroenterology. Published April 27, 2016.
  3. Bruholt E. New treatment for irritable bowel syndrome?


  • mariekine
    4 months ago

    I have had IBS-D for 9 years and couldn’t eat anything and was housebound after the removal of my gall bladder. Taking a higher dose of Questran allowed me to cope during this time.
    But after doing a 2 day intermittant fast eating only during a 6 hour period each day (a little lunch at 1pm and simple dinner at 6pm) and not taking the Questran, I have been able be rid myself of all my symptoms!
    I believe the old gut cells are removed during fasting and new stem cells are produced. During the 2 days of fasting, I had some symptoms and needed some pain killers to get me by, but afterwards I could eat all the foods that used to upset me like dairy, grains, fructose and insoluble fibre. It has been 8 months now without Questran and I’m still able to eat all food types which is quite amazing. Well worth trying a two day fast.

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