Application of Metabolomics to the Study of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2020 Jun;32(6):e13884. doi: 10.1111/nmo.13884.

Sean M Bennet 1, Ammar H Keshteli 2, Premysl Bercik 3, Karen L Madsen 2, David Reed 1, Stephen J Vanner 1


Author information

1GI Diseases Research Unit, Queen's University, Kingston General Hospital, Kingston, ON, Canada.

2University of Alberta, Edmonton, AL, Canada.

3Department of Medicine, Farncombe Institute, McMaster University, ON, Canada.


The pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome and the detection of biomarkers of specific mechanisms and/or predictors of therapeutic response remain elusive. This roadblock reflects, in large part, the complexity and heterogeneity of the disorder. Recently, there has been growing evidence of a dietary and/or microbiome interaction with the host that may trigger symptoms in a subset of patients. While a number of techniques are available to examine these potential interactions, "omic" approaches such as metabolomics are becoming more widely used. Metabolomics measures hundreds and potentially thousands of known and unknown small molecule chemicals (metabolites) to provide a unique look into mechanisms that underlie symptom generation and potential predictors of therapeutic response. In this issue of the journal, Lee et al use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to demonstrate the value of this approach to study IBS. This review examines the use of metabolomics to better understand IBS, focusing on what has been learned to date, practical and technical considerations, its potential for future research and how the study by Lee et al have contributed to these concepts.

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