According to new research, patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) unexpectedly experienced improved symptoms during COVID-19 lockdown
Researchers studied the impact of pandemic stressors and reduced social interaction on 129 IBS patients in Argentina whose data had already been collected through an earlier research project, pre-pandemic.
The patients were then re-assessed during the lockdown with the same online survey that included multiple measures of IBS severity, anxiety and depression, along with questions about co-occurring illnesses, including heartburn, regurgitation, indigestion, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and nonmigraine headaches.
The team found that the number of patients experiencing severe IBS fell from 65 to 39 and symptoms of pain, distention, stool consistency, anxiety, somatization, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue symptoms all improved. The mean Irritable Bowel Syndrome Severity Scale score for the group also fell 66 points, from 278 to 212 on a 500-point scale.
Juan Pablo Stefanolo, MD, a lead author on the study and a physician with the Neurogastroenterology and Motility section, Hospital de Clínicas José de San Martín, Buenos Aires University, Argentina, said:
“One of our main hypotheses was that these patients were going to be worse because of pressure and stress due to COVID-19. We think the results have something to do with people staying at home. They were not exposed to outside stress, and at home they were able to avoid food triggers.
“Our results reinforce the concept that IBS, or functional gastrointestinal disorders, have a connection to psychosocial factors, as well as food and other factors. The gut-brain axis has a lot of facets.”
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