Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

A New Study Suggests IBS Can Be Diagnosed With a Urine Test

Getting my IBS diagnosis more than 2 decades ago was an ordeal, to say the least. First, I had to suffer for months, from frequent and severe bouts of diarrhea that caused me to lose a massive amount of weight in a short amount of time. I visited my campus medical center weekly, only to be constantly dismissed or have my symptoms downplayed. They offered me many explanations, none of which were satisfactory: I was stressed. I was exaggerating. I wasn’t eating right.

My symptoms were so bad I decided to actually take a medical leave of absence for a semester, after which I then underwent an arduous process in an attempt to find a diagnosis to explain my symptoms (and with that, hopefully, a treatment plan that could help me).

My IBS journey involved test after test

I subjected myself to rectal exams and offered stool samples. I had a barium swallow and an endoscopy. Then I had a colonoscopy. The prep for this test is pretty terrible – I had to drink a couple of pints of laxatives and then spend all night in the bathroom. The next day I was probed after 24 hours of fasting. Exhausted and starving, I was told the doctor couldn’t find anything specific (he was thinking perhaps I had IBD – like Crohn’s). As such, I was diagnosed with IBS.

To this day IBS is still usually a default diagnosis offered after supposedly more severe GI diseases are ruled out –usually by colonoscopy. It’s an invasive, uncomfortable and inconvenient procedure. But an IBS diagnosis is often reached through a process of elimination instead of one with its own lab test. But what if something as simple and convenient as a urine test could diagnose IBS? It looks like that may be possible in the not-so-distant future.

Research about urine tests for IBS

Researchers from McMaster University in Canada have now identified specific biomarkers in the urine of patients with confirmed diagnoses of irritable bowel syndrome. In particular, the study detected certain “metabolic signatures” that were elevated in IBS patients as compared to the healthy participants used as controls. More specifically, several of these metabolites were “related to collagen degradation, which researchers believe is derived from the gut, suggesting there is an impairment of the elastic lining in the colon impacting its normal function.”1

Not only does this study have the potential to lead to a much quicker and easier way to diagnose IBS, but it might also eventually be used to monitor IBS patients undergoing dietary management or medical treatments to determine if it’s working and even how well (based on how these urine biomarkers increase or decrease in response).

This isn’t the first time a study has indicated urine testing can offer insight about IBS patients or have the potential to be used as a diagnostic tool for the disorder.

In 2012, a study was published that found indications that certain levels of proteomes in urine not only could offer proof of IBS in a patient but that proteome levels among confirmed IBS patients even differed dependent on their predominant symptoms. So, urine testing might help not just in assessing if a person has IBS in the first place, but what type of IBS they have. Of course, more studies would be needed to find out for sure. This published study concluded: “These findings warrant future studies with larger, independent cohorts to enable the more extensive assessment and validation of urinary protein markers as a diagnostic tool in an adult with IBS.”2

If it turns out to be feasible, I hope the day urine testing can be used to confirm IBS arrives sooner rather than later, so that others will not have to go through the taxing experience I did just to get a diagnosis.

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

  1. Mai Yamamoto, Maria Ines Pinto-Sanchez, Premysl Bercik, and Philip Britz-McKibbin. Metabolomics reveals elevated urinary excretion of collagen degradation and epithelial cell turnover products in irritable bowel syndrome patients. Metabolomics, 15(82). Published: 2019. Available: https://britz.mcmaster.ca/publications/articlereference.2019-07-08.7448142997
  2. Goo YA, Cain K, Jarrett M, et al. Urinary proteome analysis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptom subgroups. J Proteome Res. 2012;11(12):5650–5662. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3631108/

Comments

  • M1chael75
    2 weeks ago

    There have been several scientific studies which show that there is a direct connection between Sjogren’s Syndrome, one of the many Mixed Connective Tissue Disorders, and IBS. I am now coming around to the idea that whenever I have a Sjogren’s flare-up, it just happens to coincide with a flare-up of my IBS symptoms.

  • tmholland moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @m1chael75,

    That is a very interesting information, Michael. Thank you very much for sharing. These types of comments make the site what it is and the content richer. We appreciate you and hope you are well today. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • Poll