Irritable bowel syndrome was first described in the 1890s. But to this day, there is still no explanation for what precisely causes it. A researcher attempted to find the answer to this mystery in a new study.
Brennan Spiegel, MD, the director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, hypothesized in a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology that gravity could be responsible for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — a disorder of gut-brain interaction resulting in issues in the digestive system.
“The hypothesis proposed here is that IBS may result from ineffective anatomical, physiological, and neuropsychological gravity management systems designed to optimize gastrointestinal form and function, protect somatic and visceral integrity, and maximize survival in a gravity-bound world,” he wrote.
The study author noted that the symptoms of IBS could be due to the body’s inability to manage gravity. To back his claim, Spiegel looked at the influence of gravity on human evolution and its effects on overall health. He also reviewed previous studies showing the physiological effects of gravity on the body.
“We live our entire life in it, are shaped by it, yet hardly notice its ever-present influence on our body. Every fiber of our body is affected by gravity every day, including our gastrointestinal tract,” Spiegel told Medscape Medical News.
Apart from discussing how gravity affects the gut and abdominal area, he also explored how the nervous system plays a role in the manifestation of IBS symptoms.
“Our nervous system has evolved its own ways of managing gravity, and how gut feelings arise when our nervous system detects gravity challenges, like getting ‘butterflies’ when falling on a roller coaster or in a turbulent airplane,” Spiegel said.
According to Shelly Lu, MD, the director of the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases at Cedars-Sinai, the best thing about Spiegel’s hypothesis is it is testable.
“If proved correct, it is a major paradigm shift in the way we think about IBS and possibly treatment as well,” she said in a news release.
IBS is a common and chronic disorder that affects the stomach and intestines. Patients experience symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, gas and constipation. Most of them can be treated with medication and counseling, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The condition is difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary from one patient to another. Treatments are also tailored depending on the individual and symptoms.