A study done back in May & released at the Digestive Disease Week conference suggests that gastroenteritis caused by viral or bacterial infection may play a key role in triggering Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The study goes on to also suggest that those who are under stress while only having access to a questionable water or food supply, such as in an active war zone, are considerably more at risk of developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome than the general population.
Researchers used mathematical models to try and link bouts of acute gastroenteritis with later development of IBS. The starting point for the models were all the same with no one in the population having IBS. They then modeled how long it would take for cases of IBS to level off & become a steady percentage of the population. Their model for the general population suggested it would take 20 years for 8.9% of the population to develop IBS. The model they used suggests that some people may be immune to developing IBS regardless of how many times they have gastroenteritis while others may immediately develop IBS after a single bout of gastroenteritis.
Another analysis was done, but this time including factors such as stress, contaminated water and/or food supply. The analysis only took only a single year to achieve an 8.9% rate in this population. This suggests those win war zones or countries with poor infrastructure are at much greater risk. The study may also shed some light on the numerous reports of Gulf War Syndrome, which usually has a digestive illness component.
It’s important to remember that the models in this study are purely mathematical, though they are based off of real world data. The study suggests that there is a population that is more susceptible to Irritable Bowel Syndrome possibly due to genetic factors. What those factors are is not known. So while this study suggests that gastroenteritis plays a part in triggering IBS, we still don’t know why. Still interesting food for thought.
Post-infectious IBS can be a huge problem, as I think the long term studies on residents of Walkerton, Ontario, Canada showed after accidental contamination of their water supply in 2000.
The experience of deployed members of the military with FGIDs appears unfortunate but also instructive. Now that the U.S. Veterans Administration recently has recognized these conditions as presumptive service-connected disabilities, I hope some more interest and progress will be forthcoming for civilians with FGIDs as well.
Although I was not obviously ill at the time, my own abrupt first onset of IBS, late on the age curve with no previous personal or family history of chronic GI issues, came exactly a month after probable low level food poisoning exposure. So it doesn’t necessarily have to take a lot to set things off.