Scientists at the University of Missouri School of Medicine have made an important discovery connecting irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to somatic disorders like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
IBS is a common disorder of the stomach and intestines. It affects about 15 percent of the overall population. Its effects include abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, bloating and gas. The study covered over 1.2 million hospitalizations of IBS patients from 4,000 U.S. hospitals over three years.
It revealed that those with IBS were five times more likely to have the chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder fibromyalgia compared to adults without IBS. The chances of IBS patients having chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) were also significant when compared to those without IBS. CFS causes sleep disturbances, severe fatigue and cognitive dysfunction.
Dr. Zahid Ijaz Tarar, a fellow in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, who led the research, emphasized the importance of identifying and treating somatic disorders like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. in IBS patients to enhance their quality of life. He highlighted the value of early detection of these conditions to guide treatment strategies, including seeking input from other specialties like rheumatology and psychiatry, ultimately improving overall health outcomes for IBS patients.
These new findings build upon earlier research that established a connection between IBS and mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Dr. Yezaz Ghouri, assistant professor of clinical medicine and gastroenterology and the study’s senior author, noted that gastrointestinal infections and the use of antibiotics often triggered the high occurrence of these physical ailments following IBS. This suggests a possible role of an imbalance of gut bacteria and a permeable gut that allows toxins to leak into the bloodstream in their development.
Highlighting the broader implications, Dr. Ghouri emphasized that issues in the gut can be linked to problems elsewhere in the body and mind. As knowledge about how gut health affects overall health grows, clinicians are encouraged to actively search for somatic comorbidities and manage them in IBS patients.
The study was recently published in Biomedicines.