Research shows a link between hormones and irritable bowel syndrome. Much more research is needed but the connection is becoming clear. In this video, I talk about three types of hormones – sex, gut and adrenal hormones and how they affect your IBS symptoms.
The Link between Hormones and IBS
If you are a woman, you may have noticed that your IBS symptoms are worse before and during your periods. This is due to hormonal fluctuations. During the second half of the cycle estrogen is lower for several days, whereas progesterone is relatively high at the end of the cycle, then drops off suddenly just before your period.
Both women with and without IBS experience some changes in intestinal symptoms during their periods when both hormones drop down but those with IBS feel these changes more acutely. As we know, our bodies are more sensitive to all stimuli, especially the gut. Bloating in those with IBS also seems to be worse in the second half of the cycle before your period. Women with IBS also seem to suffer more from menstrual symptoms, such as water retention and concentration difficulties, compared to other women.
And to back this up, it is known that there is a decline in IBS after menopause, which indicates again that sex hormone fluctuations play a part in producing the symptoms, because such fluctuations stop after menopause.
Not a lot of research has been done in the area of the effect of gut hormones on IBS. However, there is some indication that they could be causing the issues, or at least part of them. Many people with IBS have more symptoms after a meal. There is some evidence that IBS symptoms could be caused by abnormal activity in at least three of the gut hormones. These hormones have been shown to be higher in those with IBS in a couple of studies. One study has shown that one of these hormones, motilin, increases in IBS sufferers when under stress. So abnormal behaviour of these gut hormones in those with IBS is thought to play a part in both symptoms after eating and also when under stress.
Many studies have shown the negative effect that stress has on IBS. The adrenal hormone Cortisol produces many of the changes which stress causes in the body. Two research studies have reported that Cortisol was unusually high in women with IBS.
Another stress hormone, Corticotropin-releasing hormone may also play a part. A Japanese research study has reported that the intestines of IBS patients show stronger and longer-lasting muscle contractions in response to this hormone compared to control subjects.
Much more research is required in all of these areas before any conclusions can be definitively reached.
Also these abnormalities may only be an intermediate step since they are message chemicals. The source of the message may be somewhere else.