Irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, is a common condition that has been diagnosed in 30-35 million Americans. Many more are undiagnosed and just silently suffer intermittent diarrhea at inconvenient moments, abdominal pain, and bloating. IBS is often painted by conventional physicians as a benign condition, one particularly ascribed to neurotic people who, in this line of thinking, are just anxious and overly-concerned with their health. For this reason, antidepressants and sedatives have been commonly prescribed for IBS over the years.
But IBS is not just IBS. IBS can be associated with numerous other conditions:
Osteoporosis—People with IBS have more than 4-fold increased likelihood of developing osteoporosis.
Psychiatric disorders—There may be a modest increase in bipolar disorder in people with IBS, as well as depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
Migraine headaches—Likelihood of IBS is approximately double that in people without migraines.
Asthma—People with asthma are more likely to have IBS.
Epilepsy—IBS is more common in people with seizure disorders. (Recall that some forms of seizures are due to a change in bowel flora composition, specifically reduction or lack of Akkermansia mucinophila.)
Parkinson’s disease is more likely in people with IBS. Parkinson’s is also increasingly looking like it is heavily influenced by bowel flora.
The presence of fibromyalgia increases the likelihood of IBS. (This association should come as no surprise to Undoctored Blog readers, as both fibromyalgia and IBS are clearly associated with dysbiosis and may be synonymous with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO.)
Endometriosis–Women with endometriosis are nearly twice as likely to have IBS.
That is just a sampling (much of it brought to light by the efforts of a Chinese group’s analysis of a large group), as there are a number of other disorders associated with IBS, including a frightening percentage with fecal incontinence.
Of course, much of these data are observational and cannot establish a cause-effect relationship, but the associations are troubling. (I’ve recently discussed the problems with observational studies; while these studies suffer many of the same uncertainties, because the associations are being made between two established diagnoses and not a questionnaire and an event, the issues are a bit different.) IBS may be associated with these conditions due to the prevalence of grain consumption in each condition, dysbiosis or SIBO, or other factors, i.e., confounding factors.
Nonetheless, it is looking like IBS is not just IBS but may be a situation that is shared by numerous other conditions. What is NOT clear, of course, is whether correction of IBS via, say, antibiotics and cultivation of bowel flora to address SIBO, can reduce the likelihood of Parkinson’s disease, asthma, migraine headaches, or dementia. (A substantial proportion of people with IBS obtain relief with antibiotic treatment, as well as with probiotic supplementation.)
But, given the recurring themes in IBS—overlap with SIBO, response to antibiotics and probiotics, etc.—I’m going to bet that efforts to reverse IBS also result in substantial reductions in these other, apparently associated, conditions. You can be sure that we will be exploring these issues in our Undoctored Inner Circle.