Lockdowns Improved Symptoms for People With IBS

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay reporter

MONDAY May 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) – People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) had milder symptoms during the COVID-19 lockdown, likely due to reduced stress levels and better control of their diet, report Argentinian researchers.

“We think the results have something to do with people staying at home,” said study author Dr Juan Pablo Stefanolo. “They weren’t exposed to outside stress and at home they were able to avoid food triggers.”

His team used an online survey to reassess 129 IBS patients in Argentina while they were on pandemic lockdown. The pre-pandemic patient data had been collected as part of a previous research project.

Argentina have experienced one of the longest lockdowns in the world. The number of patients who reported severe IBS increased from 65 before onset to 39.

On a 500-point scale used to rate the severity of IBS, the average rose from 278 to 212 during the lockdown. IBS symptoms of pain, distension, stool consistency, anxiety, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue all improved, according to the study.


But three symptoms unrelated to IBS – headache, heartburn, and vomiting – increased during the lockdown. This was likely due to the fact that nearly 60% of patients reported putting on weight, according to the study’s authors.

The results surprised the researchers, who expected patients to do less well due to the pressure and stress of COVID-19.

“Our results support the concept that IBS, or functional gastrointestinal disorders, is related to psychosocial factors, as well as to food and other factors,” said Stefanolo, of the Neurogastroenterology and Motility section of Hospital de Clínicas José de San Martín in Buenos Aires. “The gut-brain axis has many facets.”

People with functional gastrointestinal disorders show symptoms despite the absence of physical or biochemical abnormalities. The gut-brain connection refers to the role of stress and mental health in triggering gut symptoms.

The results were presented Sunday at an online meeting of medical professionals and students dubbed Digestive Disease Week. Research presented at meetings is generally considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.


More information

The US National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more on IBS.

SOURCE: Digestive Diseases Week, press release, May 23, 2021

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