Scientists have figured out how changes in gut microbiota composition and functions drive IBS-related symptoms

Scientists suggest that acting on the gut microbiota from the outside can help relieve IBS symptoms, based on the central role gut microbes seem to play. Examples of said role are as follows. First, one in 10 people who experience an episode of gastroenteritis do not recover and develop IBS symptoms. Second, antibiotics may increase the risk of IBS by altering the gut microbiota. Last, certain probiotics and locally acting antibiotics have been shown to be successful as a treatment for IBS.

There have been significant improvements in the field as to how an altered gut microbiota is associated with IBS in both children and adults. For instance, enterobacteria and Clostridioides difficile, which are common members of a healthy gut microbiota, are enriched in those with IBS and can contribute to symptoms.

Beyond composition, gut microbiota functions can also be altered in IBS. As such, it is common that gut microbiota hydrogen and carbohydrate metabolism is altered in patients with IBS, and that can contribute to both gas formation and abdominal pain.


The gut microbiota offers clues for developing new treatments and diagnostic tools for IBS

Despite newspapers and social media being packed with endless diets and food supplements for relieving IBS symptoms, only a few have been rigorously tested in human studies. Of those, diets that change the gut microbiota have been shown to successfully manage symptoms in some patients with IBS.

That is the case, for instance, with the low FODMAP diet and other dietary patterns that restrict the amount of dietary carbohydrates. Specific probiotics, prebiotics and a combination of those as synbiotics also show potential for IBS.

There is a debate, however, about the one-size-fits all approach used for improving the variety of symptoms caused by IBS and, given the complexity of the condition, the way forward may be to advocate a personalized plan for reducing IBS symptoms.

In addition to being used as a means of developing new treatments, the gut microbiota is also used for merging patients into specific groups that allow for better personalization of treatment and optimization of the number of people that respond to them.

In this interview on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of GMFH, Dr. James Versalovic, Vice Chair at Baylor College of Medicine, Chair of Pathology and Pathologist-in-Chief at Texas Children’s Hospital (USA), updates the relevance of the microbiota-gut-brain connection with regard to IBS and the potential offered by the gut microbiota as a means of better diagnosing and managing IBS symptoms based on a tailored approach.


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