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Hypermobility and IBS are often seen together. But, now a new study has found that hypermobile adolescents are more than twice as likely to have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The research titled “Hypermobility spectrum disorders and irritable bowel syndrome: A nationwide study of 1.6 million adolescents” has just been published. It was carried out in Issrael and more than 1.6 million adolescents with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS) took part.
The link between hEDS and IBS
Key findings from the study are:
- The researchers found that 11.6% of the adolescents had hypermobile joints, and 6.2% had IBS. Among those with hypermobile joints, 13.9% had IBS, compared to 5.7% of those without hypermobile joints.
- The association between hypermobile joints and IBS was stronger for females, those with higher body mass index (BMI), and those with anxiety or depression.
- The study suggests that hypermobile joints may be a risk factor for IBS, and that clinicians should be aware of this possible link when treating patients with either condition.
Does hypermobility cause IBS?
This isn’t the first study to find a connection between hypermobility and IBS. The study “Overlap between irritable bowel syndrome and hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: An unexplored clinical phenotype?” reported that up to 62% of patients with hEDS suffer from IBS.
Why is there a link between hypermobility and IBS?
No one knows for sure. But there are a few possible explanations for the link between hypermobility and IBS:
- Abnormal GI motility: People with hypermobility often have weaker connective tissue throughout their bodies, including in their digestive tract. This can lead to abnormal GI motility, or the movement of food through the digestive system. This can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Alterations in the gut-brain axis: The gut-brain axis is a complex communication network between the digestive system and the brain. It is thought that people with hypermobility may have alterations in the gut-brain axis, which can lead to IBS symptoms.
- Alterations of biomechanical properties: The biomechanical properties of the digestive tract may be altered in people with hypermobility. This can lead to changes in how the digestive system functions, which can contribute to IBS symptoms.
- Increased sensitivity: People with hypermobility may be more sensitive to pain and other stimuli, including those in the digestive tract. This can lead to IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain and discomfort.
In addition to these possible explanations, there is also a growing body of evidence that suggests that hypermobility and IBS may be caused by shared genetic factors.
How to treat IBS?
There are different diets recommended for hypermobility. These include vegan, gluten free, and low FODMAP.
A 2019 study found that a low FODMAP diet had a greater effect at treating IBS symptoms in people with joint hypermobility syndrome than other diets. The symptoms a low FODMAP diet improved the most were pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
Another thing to remember when choosing foods that are good for hypermobility, it to opt for natural, fresh, and unprocessed as much as possible. These foods are less likely to aggravate IBS symptoms than unhealthy, processed foods high in fat, sugar, and calories.