Nutrition to improve quality of life of IBS patients

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disease that affects a large number of people. It is estimated that 15% of the total world population have mild or severe IBS symptoms reducing their quality of life. To date, no adequate treatment is available. This is partially due to the heterogeneity of the patients and the complicated pathology in which not all mechanisms are understood. IBS is a multifactorial disease in which the intestinal cell wall, immune system, enteroendocrine cells and the microbiota all have an important role.

According to gastroenterologists, patients themselves often report that the changes in diet have the most pronounced beneficial effects on their IBS symptoms but it is not known for what subgroup of patients this is true, what the mechanism behind it is and what kind of nutrition has the biggest impact.

The 3 main objectives of this research therefore are:

  1. Increase insights into the mechanisms behind the IBS pathology and how food can have an influence on this.
  2. Identify (new) links between nutritional compounds and/or food patterns and relief of IBS symptoms for certain subgroups taken the heterogeneity of the patients into account.
  3. Develop and optimize in vitro models to serve as a screening tool for future studies towards IBS relieving nutrition.

Based on current knowledge, the most promising food to alleviate IBS symptoms are those with:

  1. compounds that influence the gut microbiome probiotics or
  2. compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties - prebiotics.

Three work packages

The research will be divided into 3 work packages.

Work package (WP) 1 will focus on the development of the in vitro models that mimic IBS-related processes with individual and combined cell cultures.

In WP 2 an animal study and human trial is done to validate the in vitro tool box for the identification of compounds to treat IBS symptoms.

In WP 3 the nutritional habits of IBS patients and the potential dietary changes that they already have made to deal with their symptoms are investigated and this is linked to improved quality of life and microbiota changes.

All workpackages contribute to gaining more insight into the mechanisms behind the IBS pathology.