Help For Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Education, Support, & Self Help for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Heather & Company View Cart
Shop for IBSIBS Message BoardsIBS News & ReviewsStore Finder
IBS Diet & Recipes
IBS Books
IBS Supplements
Yoga for IBS
Hypnosis for IBS
Tummy Teas
Get The IBS Diet Cheat Sheet
Get Trigger Foods, Safe Foods, Ten Commandments of Eating for IBS, More!

Enter First Name:

Enter Email:

We value your privacy

All Boards >> Irritable Bowel Syndrome Research Library


Reged: 12/09/02
Posts: 7677
Loc: Seattle, WA
Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Separate or Unified?
01/05/10 12:03 PM

Current Opinion in Gastroenterology

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Separate or Unified?
Sylvie Bradesi, PhD, James A. McRoberts, Ph.D, Peter A. Anton, MD, Emeran A. Mayer, MD

Posted: 07/15/2003; Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2003;19(4) 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Abstract and Introduction
Both irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases share symptoms of altered bowel habits associated with abdominal pain or discomfort. Irritable bowel syndrome has been referred to as a functional bowel disorder, which is diagnosed by a characteristic cluster of symptoms in the absence of detectable structural abnormalities. Inflammatory bowel disease is a heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by various forms of chronic mucosal and/or transmural inflammation of the intestine. In this review, the authors discuss recent evidence suggesting several potential mechanisms that might play a pathophysiologic role in both syndromes. Possible shared pathophysiologic mechanisms include altered mucosal permeability, an altered interaction of luminal flora with the mucosal immune system, persistent mucosal immune activation, alterations in gut motility, and a role of severe, sustained life stressors in symptom modulation. It is proposed that similarities and differences between the two syndromes can best be addressed within the framework of interactions between the central nervous system and the gut immune system. Based on recent reports of low-grade mucosal inflammation in subpopulations of patients meeting current diagnostic criteria for irritable bowel syndrome, therapeutic approaches shown to be effective in inflammatory bowel disease, such as probiotics, antibiotics, and antiinflammatory agents, have been suggested as possible therapies for certain patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) represent two conditions characterized by chronically recurring symptoms of abdominal pain, discomfort (urgency and bloating) and alterations in bowel habits. However, whereas IBD is characterized by inflammation or ulcerations in the small and/or large intestine, such "organic" changes have traditionally not been associated with IBS. IBD is usually classified as ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease, but it also includes forms of microscopic colitis, eg, histologic evidence of mucosal inflammation without macroscopic abnormalities. IBD is characterized by a constellation of patient-reported history and endoscopic, histopathologic, and radiologic findings, often with serologic correlates. Classic signs that reflect the inflammatory process within the gastrointestinal tract are rectal bleeding, diarrhea, fever, and weight loss, occasionally associated with extraintestinal manifestations. Interestingly, in the absence of complications, abdominal pain is not necessarily the most prominent symptom in IBD, despite extensive mucosal inflammation and presumably sensitization of peripheral visceral pain pathways. Genetic predisposition, environmental factors, infectious agents, altered gut epithelial permeability, and impaired immune responses have been incriminated in the still unclear cause of IBD.

By contrast, IBS, classified as functional (as opposed to organic) bowel disorder, is currently diagnosed on the basis of a characteristic cluster of symptoms in the absence of detectable structural abnormalities. As a matter of fact, according to the currently used symptom criteria (Rome criteria), once organic changes are detected, a diagnosis of a functional syndrome can no longer be made.[1] Because of the nonspecificity of the cardinal symptoms of abdominal pain or abdominal discomfort (the latter including bloating-type symptoms, a sensation of rectal urgency, or incomplete evacuation), the current diagnosis of IBS applies to a heterogeneous group of patients, even after attempts to define subgroups based on predominant bowel habit. Current theories to explain the pathophysiology of IBS include alteration in visceral perception, gastrointestinal motility and gut epithelial and immune function. Considerable evidence supports a role of psychosocial and physical (ie, gastroenteric infections) stressors as central and peripheral triggers, respectively, of first symptom onset or exacerbation.[2*] As reflected by an increasing number of publications on the subject, considerable interest in the putative role of low-grade chronic inflammation in the pathogenesis of IBS has recently emerged.[3] Enhanced responsiveness to psychosocial and physical stressors has been suggested as a plausible mechanism that could explain most clinical and experimental findings in IBS, and that is consistent with the majority of the reported physiologic alterations.[4]

Evidence of Mucosal Immune Activation in Patients Meeting Symptom Criteria for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Several recent independent studies have demonstrated alterations in the gut-associated immune system. Quantitative assessment in unselected patients with IBS have shown increased mast cell numbers in the ileum[5] and colonic mucosa.[6] Preliminary evidence suggests an increase of overall cellularity in the colonic mucosa[7] and a higher number of mast cells containing tryptase (known to have proinflammatory effects) in the colonic lamina propria of patients with IBS.[8] Additional preliminary results indicate a significant increase of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression in the colonic mucosa from unselected patients with IBS compared with control patients.[9] In the human colon, upregulation of iNOS has been implicated in inflammatory processes, and increased expression has been documented in IBD.[10] More recently, a study by Chadwick et al. [11*] demonstrated intestinal mucosal immune activation in 77 symptomatic patients meeting the Rome criteria (the authors did not specify Rome I vs II criteria). The study included patients with diarrhea, constipation, or both. In 38 of the patients (50%), a normal conventional histologic appearance was seen, but the immunohistologic results were abnormal (intraepithelial lymphocytes-IEL, lamina propria CD25+ and CD3+ lymphocytes). In 40% of patients, nonspecific microscopic inflammation was seen, whereas immunohistologic results showed similar increases in lymphocyte populations as in the first group. However, in contrast to the first group, they also showed increased numbers of neutrophils and mast cells. Ten percent of patients fulfilled the histologic and immunohistologic criteria for lymphocytic colitis. Even though the magnitude of changes in cell numbers was far less than observed in patients with IBD, the increased numbers of IEL, T cells, IL-2 receptor expressing cells, suppressor/cytotoxic T cells, and NK cells were consistent with an increased inflammatory cell presence in a subset of patients with altered bowel habits who met the symptom-based Rome criteria. Because a significant number of patients meeting the Rome criteria also met the histologic criteria for a diagnosis of lymphocytic colitis, the findings highlight a major problem with the way we currently diagnose IBS. By definition, the diagnosis of an organic disease such as lymphocytic colitis is inconsistent with a diagnosis of IBS. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the patients met the Rome criteria because of the presence of discomfort (urgency, bloating) relieved by bowel movements, or whether they reported abdominal pain. Using the current Rome criteria, a diagnosis of IBS can be made in any patient experiencing abdominal discomfort (for example, in the form of urgency or bloating-type symptoms), that is relieved by a bowel movement. In the absence of mucosal histology to rule out macroscopic or microscopic forms of colitis, such a symptom cluster is likely to include a wide range of syndromes with different causes and pathologic mechanisms.

Another study reported neuromuscular and inflammatory abnormalities in the small bowel of 10 patients (8 women; age range 24-55 years) with severe IBS symptoms.[12] Surprising for an IBS population, the symptoms apparently were severe and refractory enough to justify a laparoscopic full-thickness biopsy. The durations of IBS symptoms ranged from 2 to 30 years, and the predominant bowel habits included constipation, diarrhea, and alternating bowel habits. In this study, analysis of full-thickness biopsy specimens of the jejunum from IBS patients (diagnosis having been made on the basis of absence of detectable structural lesions and fulfillment of the Rome I criteria for IBS) showed several histopathologic abnormalities. The authors reported in most patients some neural degeneration in the ganglia of the myenteric plexus associated with infiltration of CD3+ T lymphocytes and longitudinal muscle hypertrophy. In some cases, IEL numbers were increased, and the numbers of interstitial cells of Cajal were also increased. There are two major problems with the reported findings. First is the absence of an appropriate control group. For example, the observed mucosal alterations in the proximal jejunum were compared with biopsy specimens obtained from the distal ileum during colonoscopy, and alterations in the jejunal wall were compared with findings obtained in tissues from deceased patients (of unspecified sex and age). Second, as admitted by the authors, the patients in this study represented a highly selected group with severe symptoms that were apparently refractory to current management. Even though it was stated that patients had normal or nonspecific changes on small intestinal manometry, it is conceivable that the patients had a mild or early form of chronic intestinal pseudoobstruction. Analogous to the comments made above about the nonspecificity of the Rome criteria to differentiate microscopic colitis from IBS, the same argument could be made for chronic intestinal pseudoobstruction.

Patients in another group, frequently discussed as evidence for a possible role of altered gut immune function in IBS, are those in whom IBS-like symptoms develop after a documented gastroenteric infection (so-called postinfectious IBS [PI-IBS] patients). A history of acute gastroenteritis caused by a variety of bacterial infections as well as parasitic infections was found to increase the risk of the development of persistent IBS symptoms. The risk factors associated with PI-IBS include female gender, duration of the acute illness episode, and a major stressful life event at the time of the infection. Patients with PI-IBS have been reported to show changes in gut motility (eg, reduced rectal compliance) and epithelial function and an increase in enterochromaffin cells.[13, 14] In addition, mucosal immune parameters in these patients exhibit changes that include altered macrophage (CD68) and T lymphocyte (CD3, CD4, CD8) populations and increased expression of IL-1 mRNA.[15] Some of these changes, as well as symptoms of diarrhea, were shown to persist for more than a year in some cases, suggesting chronic immune system activation.[15] Although the mechanisms involved in the ongoing inflammation after clearance of the infectious agent remain unclear, it has been suggested that a subset of IBS patients may have a genetic predisposition to inflammatory dysregulation. Preliminary evidence suggests a reduced frequency of the high producer allele for the antiinflammatory cytokines IL-10 and TGF-, suggesting a reduced production of these cytokines in patients with IBS compared with healthy control subjects.[16] Several important questions have to be addressed before the existence of a distinct pathophysiologic entity of PI-IBS can be confirmed. (1) Even though persistence of low-grade inflammation has been described in individuals who continued to be symptomatic, a causal role of these mucosal changes with IBS symptoms has not been demonstrated.[14, 15] Preliminary reports from a therapeutic trial with an antiinflammatory agent in PI-IBS did not demonstrate any effect on symptoms.[17] (2) There is currently no evidence of visceral hypersensitivity in this patient group, and the reported lower volume thresholds for discomfort simply reflect a reduced rectal compliance. (3) It is unclear whether patients who report their first onset of IBS symptoms after an enteric infection have a history of other intestinal or extraintestinal functional syndromes (such as dyspepsia or chronic constipation) or anxiety disorders. In this case, the persistence of bowel symptoms may simply be a reactivation of a preexis