A new theory suggests irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the most common gastrointestinal disorder, may be caused by gravity.
Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai and author of the hypothesis, explains that IBS — and many other conditions — could result from the body’s inability to manage gravity.
“As long as there’s been life on Earth, from the earliest organisms to Homo sapiens, gravity has relentlessly shaped everything on the planet,” said Spiegel, who is also a professor of Medicine. “Our bodies are affected by gravity from the moment we’re born to the day we die. It’s a force so fundamental that we rarely note its constant influence on our health.”
The hypothesis, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, describes how the intestines, spine, heart, nerves and brain evolved to manage gravity.
“Our body systems are constantly pulled downward,” Spiegel noted. “If these systems cannot manage the drag of gravity, then it can cause issues like pain, cramping, lightheadedness, sweating, rapid heartbeat and back issues — all symptoms seen with IBS. It can even contribute to bacterial overgrowth in the gut, a problem also linked to IBS.”
The underlying mechanism of IBS has been puzzling researchers since it was first described over a century ago. While the disorder affects up to 10% of the world’s population, experts still aren’t sure exactly how or why it develops.
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