Genes may explain why anxiety is linked to gut disorder

09:34 AM Nov 08, 2021 | Team Udayavani |

Anxiety often seen in people with gut disorder — irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — could be explained by certain genes, say researchers.


IBS is considered to impact one out of every ten people, and it can cause stomach pain, bloating, and constipation, diarrhoea, or both. According to the BBC, University researchers hope that their study may prevent IBS from being incorrectly labelled as an emotional state or “all in the mind.”

The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, examined more than 50,000 individuals with IBS, comparing their DNA with that of healthy people. The team identified at least six distinct genetic differences that might, at least partly, explain this link between the gut and the mind. Most of these have roles in the brain, and possibly the nerves which supply the gut, rather than the gut itself.

The same genetic make-up that puts people at increased risk of IBS also increases the risk for common mood and anxiety disorders such as anxiety, depression, and neuroticism, as well as insomnia.

IBS is still poorly understood, even by some doctors, and may be incorrectly categorised as psychosomatic because of the overlap with anxiety and stress,” Miles Parkes, a consultant gastroenterologist at Cambridge’s Addenbrookes Hospital who led the gene research, was quoted as saying.


However, that doesn’t mean anxiety causes IBS symptoms or vice versa.

“Our study shows these conditions have shared genetic origins, with the affected genes possibly leading to physical changes in brain or nerve cells that in turn cause symptoms in the brain and symptoms in the gut,” Parkes said.

The discovery might ultimately help with developing better tests and treatments for IBS, the report said.

On the other hand, a new study suggests that a group of people who engage in regular physical exercise may have a lower risk of developing anxiety disorder compared to others by almost 60 percent.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. The researchers from Lund University in Sweden conducted the study based on data from almost 400,000 people in one of the largest ever population epidemiology studies across both sexes. Researcher Martine Svensson stated that they were able to identify a noticeable difference in the risk of developing anxiety and in exercise performance levels between males and females. Anxiety disorders usually develop early in a person’s life and it is estimated that it affects approximately 10 percent of the world’s population. Besides, it has also been found more common among women compared to men.

(With IANS Input)


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