An estimated 10-15 percent of adults in the US suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic condition that affects the large intestine. Symptoms of the disorder include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and changes in bowel function including diarrhea and/or constipation.
The exact cause of IBS is not well understood. Research indicates that disruptions in brain-gut interactions, changes in the composition of bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut, and the presence of chronic, low-level inflammation in the intestines all play a role. Life events or stressors, a history of bacterial infection in the digestive tract, and genetics can also contribute to its development.
A New Report
This week, we released a new report on IBS for 23andMe+ members.
The report, which is powered by data from 23andMe research participants, uses machine learning techniques to estimate an individual’s likelihood of developing the condition. This estimate is made using a statistical model that includes more than 12,000 genetic markers, along with information on an individual’s ethnicity and birth sex.
The report also provides an overview of the condition and actionable ways to alleviate symptoms.
While IBS can’t be prevented, lifestyle interventions, medication, and stress reduction techniques can effectively manage the condition.
Many individuals can minimize their symptoms by avoiding the foods that seem to trigger them. Other dietary changes, such as gradually increasing the amount of soluble fiber (commonly found in foods like oats, beans, and apples) or adopting what’s called a low “FODMAP diet,” may also provide relief.
Because of the close relationship between the brain and the gut, counseling and stress management techniques may diminish symptoms and improve quality of life. Increasing physical activity and getting sufficient sleep are also useful tools.
And for more severe cases of IBS, medication can help alleviate troublesome symptoms like pain and cramping.