No one really knows how or why irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) develops, but gastroenterologist Brennan Spiegel of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles has come up with a compelling new hypothesis.
Spiegel claims that irritable bowel syndrome is triggered by the body’s inability to handle gravity.
Our intestines, Spiegel explains, are like a big sack of potatoes that we have to carry around our whole lives.
If our body’s normal management of gravity fails for any reason, our diaphragm can slide down and compress our intestines, potentially causing motility problems and bacterial overgrowth.
“Our nervous system also evolved in a world of gravity, and this may explain why many people feel butterflies in their stomachs when they are anxious,” says Spiegel, according to ScienceAlert.
The connection between our nervous system and gravity
“It’s curious that these gut feelings also occur when falling toward Earth, such as when falling on a roller coaster or in a turbulent airplane. Nerves in the gut are like an ancient G-force detector that alerts us when we experience—or are about to experience—a dangerous fall.”
Currently, there is no definitive test for this syndrome, and its symptoms are highly variable from patient to patient.
About 10 percent of people worldwide are now thought to suffer from the syndrome, and Spiegel is one of many scientists working to find out why. Gravity, he argues, could be the underlying force pulling all these different symptoms together.
In Spiegel’s framework, a disordered response to gravity could also trigger a disordered interaction between the gut and the brain. By crushing the intestines, it could even impact the gut microbiome, causing hypersensitivity, inflammation or discomfort.
Gravity could trigger a gut-brain interaction disorder
If the syndrome is caused by the body fighting gravity, then it might explain why physical therapy and exercise can prove so beneficial in relieving its symptoms.
It could also explain why serotonin tends to be elevated in patients.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is mainly produced in the gut to regulate our bowel movements and also our mood, but too much of it can trigger diarrhea. It is also involved in regulating our blood pressure in response to gravity.
Without serotonin, Spiegel says, your body may not be able to stand up, maintain balance, or keep blood flowing.
The study was published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.