Tag Archives: inflammatory bowel disease

Blood tests to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome

In what is thought to be a world first, scientists have developed a new set of blood tests to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome.

The diagnostic tool can quickly and accurately diagnose the painful condition, offering hope to millions afflicted across the world.

There are currently no specific tests routinely used by doctors to identify IBS.

As a result, millions of patients undergo invasive investigations to rule out other, more serious conditions including bowel cancer and Crohn’s disease, before specialists can arrive at a diagnosis.

Gastroenterologist Dr Mark Pimentel, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA, believes his new method could help secure an early diagnosis for patients, avoiding the need for years of medical appointments.

He said the tests confirm when an individual has developed IBS as a result of food poisoning, a major cause of the disorder.

Toxins produced by bacteria, such as salmonella, can severely harm the digestive system by damaging nerves critical to healthy gut function.

The new blood tests identify the presence and amount of specific antibodies reacting to the toxins.

Dr Pimentel said: ‘Having an early diagnosis means patients can avoid years of invasive tests and visits to specialists that often leave them with more questions than answers.

‘With these new blood tests many patients will now be able to proceed right to therapy for their condition.’

IBS is the most common gastroenterological disorder plaguing patients in the US, affecting nearly 40 million people.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

In the UK, one in five people suffers the condition, while an estimated 10 per cent of the world’s population are affected.

Dr Pimentel said the disorder has been ‘nearly impossible to diagnose until now’.

It is characterised by a cluster of confounding symptoms, including chronic bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and bouts of relentless diarrhoea, constipation or both.

Fatigue and the stress patients suffer as a result of trying to plan their lives around visits to the bathroom, can prove debilitating.

Dr Pimentel and his team of researchers studied nearly 3,000 people, comparing IBS patients to those diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease and those with no gastrointestinal disease.

The blood tests identified the two antibodies associated with IBS – anti Cdtb and anti-vinculin – with greater than 90 per cent certainty, they found.

‘Most IBS patients have been told at one time or another that the disease was psychological, all in their head,’ said Dr Pimentel.

‘The fact that we can now confirm the disease through their blood, not their head, is going to end a lot of the emotional suffering I have seen these patients endure.’

The study, validating the accuracy of the blood tests, was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Dr Pimental also presented his research on Sunday at Digestive Disease Week 2015 in Washington D.C.

Conditions that may benefit from probiotics

Gastrointestinal infections and diarrhoea. The strongest evidence for taking probiotics to improve health is linked to their role in preventing and treating diarrhoea.

In a review of 63 studies probiotics taken with rehydration powders were found to reduce the frequency and duration of diarrhoea. If you suffer a bout of gastroenteritis take probiotics daily for about a month.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is estimated that between 10 and 20 per cent of adults in the UK suffer with IBS, which can develop after a bout of gastroenteritis.

The main symptoms are bloating, stomach cramps, flatulence, diarrhoea and constipation.

In many IBS sufferers the microbiome is out of balance so restoring the microbiota (gut flora) can help to relieve uncomfortable symptoms.

A review of 14 trials at the University of Oxford found probiotics played a role in alleviating some of the symptoms of IBS, including pain, flatulence and bloating.

Lactose intolerance. This condition occurs when the body is unable to digest lactose, the main sugar in milk. It is caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose.

It is often a temporary condition, occurring after a stomach bug that resulted in diarrhoea.

Symptoms include bloating, cramping, loose stools and flatulence. Research shows that lactobacillus acidophilus helps to produce the enzyme lactase and so aid digestion and absorption of lactose. Try Quest Acidophilus Plus, £8.89 for 60 capsules.

Inflammatory bowel disease. According to a review of 41 studies there is not yet enough evidence to support the use of probiotics in Crohn’s disease. But their use looks far more promising for people with ulcerative colitis.



Constipation. A change in bacteria in the gut can have the unwelcome effect of slowing movement in the bowel.

A review of 11 trials found taking probiotic supplements reduced the amount of time it took for food to pass through the digestive tract with the greatest effects seen in older adults and those who were constipated.

Bifidobacterium lactis strains seemed to have the greatest effect.

Coughs, colds and infections. Around 70 per cent of our immune system is in our digestive system and taking probiotics has been linked with a lower incidence of coughs, colds and infections.

Chinese researchers looked at 10 different studies and found people taking probiotics had a reduced incidence of upper respiratory tract infections compared with those taking a placebo. They were also less likely to need antibiotics.

Obesity. Emerging research suggests there is a link between the balance of microbes in our gut and our weight.

Much of the work is still in its early stages but studies show obese people tend to have a poor-quality microbiome compared with slim people.

We don’t yet know whether this is a cause or consequence of obesity but studies do show weight loss or weight gain can affect the balance and composition of gut bacteria.