People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may actually be allergic to gravity, scientists have suggested.
The true cause of IBS is not known, but a scientist thinks it could be due to the pull of gravity on the intestines in the body.
The abdomen is held in place by muscles and bones, but if the body cannot withstand the force of gravity, it could crush the spine and cause the organs to move downward.
This could lead to IBS symptoms, including pain, cramping, dizziness and back problems, according to Dr. Brennan Spiegel, director of health services research at Cedars-Sinai in California.
Some people are better equipped to deal with the pull of gravity on our organs, scientists have suggested
It could even cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut – another cause of IBS.
Between 25 and 45 million Americans are affected by the disease, which is more common in women than in men. Its main symptoms are stomach pain, gas, diarrhea and constipation.
Dr. Brennan Spiegel hypothesizes that some people are simply better at coping with gravity than others.
WHAT IS ICS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common bowel disorder that results in stomach pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
The condition affects between 25 and 45 million Americans.
About two out of three of them are women.
Most people show their first symptoms of IBS before the age of 40.
The cause of the disease is unknown, but it is thought to be due to abnormalities in the gut bacteria.
Symptoms can be managed, but there is no cure for IBS.
Treatment involves taking care of yourself by changing your diet, lifestyle, and exercise.
The diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FOMAP) is considered effective for people with IBS.
It contains eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables, while avoiding dairy products and wheat.
For example, individuals may have a “stretchable” suspension system where the intestines hang down.
Other people have spinal issues that cause the diaphragm to sag or the stomach to protrude, resulting in a crushed abdomen and can trigger mobility issues.
The theory could explain why exercise can help IBS, because exercise strengthens the support system that holds the organs together.
Dr. Spiegel’s theory of gravity extends beyond the intestines.
He said: ‘Our nervous system has also evolved in a world of gravity, and this could explain why many people experience abdominal ‘butterflies’ when anxious.
“It is curious that these ‘visceral sensations’ also occur when falling to Earth, such as when falling on a roller coaster or in a turbulent plane.
“The nerves in the gut are like an ancient G-force sensor that alerts us when we are having – or are about to have – a dangerous fall. This is just a guess, but people with IBS might be prone to overestimating G-force threats that never happen.
People react differently to gravity, Dr. Spiegel explained, leading to a spectrum of “G-force alertness.”
Some will enjoy the hair-raising sensation of falling on a roller coaster, while others will wish it was over.
Dr. Spiegel said other conditions can also be caused by intolerance of gravity, including anxiety, depression and chronic fatigue.
He says a body struggling to deal with gravity can also struggle to pump serotonin – dubbed the “love” hormone – and other neurotransmitters around the body.
He said: “Dysregulated serotonin can be a form of gravity failure.
“When serotonin biology is abnormal, people can develop IBS, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. These may be forms of intolerance to gravity.
Other theories are that IBS is a disorder resulting from the interaction between the gut and the brain, as behavioral therapy and substances like serotonin can help.
Another idea is that IBS is caused by harmful bacteria in the gut. Studies indicate that the disease can be controlled with antibiotics and a diet high in eggs, meat, grains, and fruits and vegetables.
Gut hypersensitivity, atypical serotonin levels, or a dysregulated nervous system could also be to blame.
More research is needed to test Dr. Spiegel’s idea and examine potential treatments.
Dr Shelly Lu, president of the Guild of Women in Gastroenterology and director of the Digestive and Liver Diseases Division at Cedars-Sinai, said the theory was “provocative”.
“The best thing about it is that it’s testable,” she said.
She added: “If true, this is a major paradigm shift in how we think about IBS and possibly treatment as well.”
The hypothesis was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.