IBS Network
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Volunteers wanted - research project

Volunteers wanted - research project

Understanding the symptoms of IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) represents a challenge for medical science, because it doesn’t fit any of the recognised types of disease. It isn’t a broken part. It isn’t an infection. It isn’t inflammation. It isn’t a missing chemical, and so on. However, IBS is not the only condition that provides this challenge. The same applies to chronic fatigue (CFS/ME) and fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). IBS, CFS/ME and FMS as well of a lot of other syndromes (e.g., repetitive strain injury) are all swept up into a general category that is labelled ‘functional disorders’. Functional disorders should be translated as ‘there is clearly something going wrong but we haven’t the faintest idea what it is’.

I have been working on the hypothesis that IBS and the other functional disorders might be an entirely new type of disease, which is different from those that have been identified before. I have used complexity theory to suggest that IBS isn’t just in the gut – or just in the brain. It is distributed over the whole body and involves the brain, the immune system, the hormonal system as well the gut. This is a new idea, but it is consistent with some facts that have already been established. For example, we know that the gut has more nerves than the spinal cord and is sometimes referred to as ‘the second brain’. We know that the gut is a major site for immune learning. Quite simply, the gut is not just there for digestion. It does a lot more besides. We also know that many biological abnormalities are found in IBS, but they are not unique to IBS and they are also found in people who have experienced chronic stress – as well as people who have CFS/ME.

If my theory is correct, IBS and other functional disorders should be considered overlapping forms of dysregulation of the whole body. A computer analogy would be to consider IBS a software problem, rather than a hardware problem. The theory leads to the prediction that there is considerable overlap between the symptoms of IBS, CFS/ME and FMS. In fact we already know that this overlap exists, but it hasn’t been investigated thoroughly.

Would you be able to help me with my research? I would like to find out in detail about the symptoms experienced by people with IBS, and I need to find this out from as many people as possible. I have devised a special questionnaire that covers a wide range of symptoms of people who have IBS, CFS/ME or FMS. I am also asking people with CFS/ME and FMS to complete the same questionnaire. The questionnaire is anonymous and can be completed online. It can be found at


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