Scientists Identify Connection Between Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Anxiety Disorders

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive system illness that occurs in adults. People with the condition come down with diarrhea, stomach pain, constipation, bloating, and abnormal bowel habits. These symptoms are usually mild to moderate, but they can be so intense sometimes that they affect the quality of life of some people. When symptoms are severe, people experience things like abdominal pain, headaches, and anxiety.

Stomach Pain

Stomach Pain

Based on research data, the condition can be passed down to family members. Also, anxiety patients are susceptible to IBS more frequently than others.

Read Also: Removing Biofilm from the Intestines Could Cure Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Scientists suggest that people who come down with both IBS and psychological symptoms have either one of the two first. They say that IBS happens before psychological symptoms in 67% of cases and vice versa in 33% of cases. Either way, they think that there is a genetic pathway that connects the two.

Anxiety and IBS are related

A research team led by Dr. Chris Ejisbouts, a geneticist at the University of Oxford, analyzed the genetic makeup of over 40,000 individuals who had been diagnosed with IBS. They were also compared with people who didn’t have the disease. The genetic information they obtained was from the UK Biobank, which is a place to get data and information about risk factors for diseases and health events.

The results show that neural circuits play a big part in how IBS develops. They found six genes, and these genes were more common in people with IBS than in people who didn’t have it. Also, most of the altered genes they found were linked to the brain and did not have independent functions just in the gut.

Read Also: IBS and Other Inflammatory Bowel Conditions Possibly Related to Mucus Production

They discovered that IBS showed the strongest genetic overlap with psychological manifestations like depression, anxiety, insomnia, and schizophrenia. However, they couldn’t confirm if anxiety leads to IBS and vice versa.

Interestingly, they analyzed familiar tendencies amongst the participants and discovered that it was not as much as believed. They went through this thoroughly and concluded that people get IBS more from environmental factors like stress, dietary patterns, and behavioral patterns.

Results also revealed that people who were exposed to many antibiotics in childhood frequently develop anxiety and IBS. The researchers also suggested that anxiety during childhood might have led to increased antibiotic use by parents.

Clinical significance

Treatments for IBS include a modified dietary pattern, increased physical activity, psychological therapy, and some medications that relieve symptoms. Knowing the genetic involvement could pave the way for them to be used as targets of pharmacological therapies. Various drug therapies can be formulated to target different aspects of the genetic pathways responsible for IBS.

Read Also: IBS: How to Treat the Diarrhea, Bloating, Flatulence and Abdominal Pain


We expect that future research and analysis will make current discoveries clearer and make way for more discoveries involving brain-gut interactions. Exploring the genetic factors indicated in IBS has been hard to crack, and we are glad that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. With the future discoveries that will be made, patients with IBS can have a better quality of life.


Eijsbouts, C., Zheng, T., Kennedy, N. A., Bonfiglio, F., Anderson, C. A., Moutsianas, L., Holliday, J., Shi, J., Shringarpure, S., Voda, A. I., Farrugia, G., Franke, A., Hübenthal, M., Abecasis, G., Zawistowski, M., Skogholt, A. H., Ness-Jensen, E., Hveem, K., Esko, T.,… Parkes, M. (2021, November 5). Genome-wide analysis of 53,400 people with irritable bowel syndrome highlights shared genetic pathways with mood and anxiety disorders. Nature Genetics.



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