A recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, suggests that the uncontrollable force of gravity may act on the colon, causing distress to some individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic condition of the colon or large intestine, which is the most common gastrointestinal disorder. Even though this condition can cause a lot of distress, it is not life-threatening and affects more women than men.
About the Study
The author of the hypothesis, Brennan Spiegel, who is also an MD, MSHS, and director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai, explains that IBS, along with many other conditions can occur from gravity intolerance. He stated that bodies are affected by gravity, right from birth till death. In the hypothesis, he described the evolution of the intestine, spine, heart, nerves, and brain to manage the influence of gravity.
Also read: How To Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Spiegel noted that the systems of the body are constantly pulled downward and if these systems cannot manage the gravity drag, then issues like cramps, pain, sweating lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat, and back issues can occur. All these symptoms are seen with IBS. This can even lead to the growth of bacteria in the gut, which is also linked with IBS.
The spine can get compressed by gravity, which also reduces flexibility. Additionally, it may cause organs to move from their ideal positions and slide downwards. The contents of the abdomen weigh a lot, like a sack of potatoes we must carry around for the rest of our lives, explained Spiegel.
The body developed a system of support structures to lift this load. Musculoskeletal issues and IBS symptoms may occur if these systems fail, said Spiegel.
Some people’s bodies are better equipped than others to support the load. For instance, some have suspension systems that are “stretchy” and lead the intestines to droop downward. While in some cases people experience a squeezed abdomen as a result of spinal problems that cause their diaphragm to sag or their belly to protrude.
These elements may lead to bacterial overgrowth or motility issues in the gut. This may also contribute to the explanation that why physical therapy and exercise are successful treatments for IBS. This is because they improve the underlying support systems.
Also read: Children Suffering from IBS are at Higher Risk of Celiac Disease: Study
However, the gravity hypothesis extends beyond the intestines. Our nervous system also developed in a gravitational environment, which may help explain why many anxious people experience belly “butterflies”, according to Spiegel.
Further research is needed to evaluate both this strategy and the potential treatment. The best part of this interesting hypothesis, according to Shelly Lu, MD, the Women’s Guild Chair in Gastroenterology and head of Cedars-Division Sinai’s of Digestive and Liver Diseases, is that it can be tested. If true, it represents a significant paradigm shift in how we see IBS and possibly treat it as well.
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