Elisabeth Laderman, Ph.D. VP, Technical Operations, Biomerica, Inc.
For over 45 million Americans, constant pain and discomfort are an unfortunate reality of everyday life. The lives of these individuals are crippled by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder where patients experience chronic abdominal pain accompanied by diarrhea (IBS-D), constipation (IBS-C), or a mix of both ailments (IBS-M). IBS is plaguing the nation and becoming increasingly prevalent among our population, topping the list of most common diagnosis made by gastroenterologists and being the seventh most common diagnosis made by general physicians.
Healthcare costs are a primary concern with IBS patients as their continued search for a solution results in approximately $30 billion worth of direct and indirect costs within the U.S. alone. On average, IBS patients visit their physician three times more often than patients who do not suffer from the disorder and incur an estimated 74% more in direct healthcare costs. Of those who suffer from this debilitating syndrome, women remain the most susceptible, consisting of approximately two-thirds of IBS patients.
Although not life-threatening, IBS is a serious health issue that can significantly impact quality of life for those who are susceptible. In the latest survey conducted by the American Gastroenterological Association, patients reported that they would give up caffeine, their cell phone or internet access, and even sex for one month for the chance to live IBS-symptom free for a month.
No specific cause for the development of IBS has been determined, making it even more challenging to develop accurate diagnostic technologies and satisfactory treatments to combat the disorder. Despite this, medical professionals are diligently working to identify how to both treat and prevent IBS symptoms. While there are currently several prescriptions on the market for IBS, these drugs only provide treatment for symptoms and fail to address the underlying cause of a patient’s discomfort.
Medication treatments often display unpleasant side effects which further add to the patient’s discomfort. For example, prescribed medicine for an individual suffering from IBS with constipation can display diarrhea as a primary side effect, forcing the patient to battle two different forms of the disorder. Current pharmaceuticals can only help about two-thirds of IBS patients, treating those with IBS-D or IBS-C, and offering no solutions for those who suffer from alternating symptoms in IBS-M.
Another popular treatment option is adhering to elimination diets, such as low FODMAP, which eliminate several food groups in an attempt to reduce consumption of foods that often trigger IBS symptoms in other patients. Not only are these elimination diets restrictive, they instruct IBS sufferers to eliminate whole food groups that can total up to 100 different items instead of creating a customized individual diet plan for the patient based on immune response.
One way to potentially treat the discomfort from IBS symptoms is through diagnostic guided therapy that creates a unique fingerprint to the exact foods that intensify the problem. When an IBS patient participates in a diagnostic guided therapy, the immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody profile is studied to see how the body responds to specific foods. This new diagnostic guided therapy is different from other food tests in its ability to distinguish between IBS patients and healthy patients. If the patient’s immune response to a particular food is significantly elevated, that specific food is eliminated to help create a personalized, structured diet plan that can potentially reduce symptoms. In using an individual, patient-specific approach, the patient only has to eliminate a few items instead of whole food groups, making treatment manageable.
There are several important distinctions between this type of test and a food allergy test, which looks to determine an immediate and acute response to a food item. Food allergy tests study immunoglobulin E (IgE) responses and are not able to detect the chronic responses that plague IBS patients. Using this new diagnostic guided therapy, physicians can help patients take control of their gut health by analyzing what was eaten and digested over time and identifying which food(s), out of various ingredients and meals consumed, can alleviate the symptoms when removed.
As IBS continues to impact an estimated 10 to 15% of people worldwide, it is imperative that both patients and doctors alike invest in preventative tactics that allow for improved gut health.
For further reading:
 Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005;21(11): 1365-1375
 Hulisz D. The burden of illness of irritable bowel syndrome: current challenges and hope for the future. J Managed Care Pharm. 2004;10:299-309