IBS-like symptoms in patients with ulcerative colitis

Gracie DJ1, Ford AC2. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2015 Feb 19;8:101-9. doi: 10.2147/CEG.S58153. eCollection 2015.
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1Leeds Gastroenterology Institute, St James's University Hospital, Leeds, UK. 2Leeds Gastroenterology Institute, St James's University Hospital, Leeds, UK ; Leeds Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.


Ulcerative colitis (UC) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are chronic gastrointestinal disorders that, until recently, have been considered dichotomous conditions falling on either side of a functional-organic divide. However, persistent gastrointestinal symptoms, akin to those of IBS, are observed in up to one in three patients with quiescent UC. Whether these lower gastrointestinal symptoms are secondary to coexistent IBS or occult UC disease activity is uncertain, but when objective evidence of disease activity is lacking, escalation of conventional pharmacotherapy in such patients is often ineffective. The etiologies of both UC and IBS remain unclear, but dysregulation of the enteric nervous system, an altered microbiome, low-grade mucosal inflammation, and activation of the brain-gut axis is common to both; this suggests that some overlap between the two conditions is plausible. How best to investigate and manage IBS-type symptoms in UC patients remains unclear. Studies that have assessed patients with UC who meet criteria for IBS for subclinical inflammation have been conflicting in their results. Although evidence-based treatments for IBS exist, their efficacy in UC patients reporting these types of symptoms remains unclear. Given the disturbances in gut microbiota in UC, and the possible role of the brain-gut axis in the generation of such symptoms, treatments such as probiotics, fecal transfer, antidepressants, or psychological therapies would seem logical approaches to use in this group of patients. However, there are only limited data for all of these therapies; this suggests that randomized controlled trials to investigate their efficacy in this setting may be warranted.

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