What Triggers IBS Symptoms?

The intestinal barrier, or gut barrier, covers about 400 m2 of space inside your body. In general, it can be defined as a protective part of the body that shields against invasion from bacteria, toxins, or other harmful substances. It functions to prevent loss of water and electrolytes and prevents entry of foreign molecules into the body. Yet the intestinal barrier still allows certain molecules to go back and forth in the gut and allows the absorption of nutrients from the diet.1

Intestinal permeability is the ability to have liquids or gases move through the pores of the intestines. Normal intestinal permeability is found in healthy people who have no signs of intoxication, inflammation, or impaired intestinal functions. In contrast, impaired intestinal permeability is defined as disturbed permeability that may lead to changes in the way the intestines work and contribute to the development of certain diseases.1

Changes in the intestinal barrier and increased intestinal permeability have been considered a possible cause for IBS. Changes to the intestinal barrier and its permeability may occur abruptly or gradually. Many factors can change intestinal permeability; including lifestyle, food allergies, genetic factors, bile acids, or changes to the intestinal environment. The increased intestinal permeability allows for the flow of more foreign or toxic substances that challenge the intestine’s immune system. This may lead to low-grade inflammation, hypersensitivity, and pain in IBS.1

What are some triggers of IBS?

Food: Certain foods may lead to hypersensitivities and allergic reactions that increase intestinal permeability.2

Hormones: Sex hormones may play a role in triggering IBS symptoms based on the female predominance in IBS. In particular, estrogen may have an effect on IBS symptoms.3

Stress: Psychological factors, particularly anxiety and stress, are recognized to be associated with the development of IBS.2

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Written by: Truc Thanh | Last reviewed: June 2016.