What IBS Sufferers Should Know
IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a painful, debilitating condition that affects 1.4 million Americans. In fact, 200,000 people in the US alone are diagnosed with IBS each year. This condition affects the intestines and can result in a wide range of painful symptoms that affect an individual’s quality of life. Some patients are able to manage their symptoms through changes to their diet and lifestyle, while others may have to live with medications for the duration of their lives. However, stem cell therapy may offer hope for all IBS sufferers.
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome affects the large intestine, and can lead to gas, pain, bloating, diarrhea, and other symptoms. This chronic condition has no cure, but there are treatment solutions that offer varying levels of effectives. The underlying cause of IBS is not yet known, although there are several underlying factors that play a role.
Intestinal muscle contractions that are longer and harder than usual can lead to IBS-related pain. Nervous system abnormalities are also factors in IBS, as is inflammation within the large intestine (an immune system response). Some people develop IBS after experiencing an infection, and others do so after changes to their gut flora (gut biome).
In most instances, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are triggered by foods and beverages. Patients who are able to manage their symptoms without the need for medications are often unable to eat or drink certain things, or they risk painful symptoms. In other patients, stress can be a major trigger of stomach discomfort, gas, and diarrhea. Finally, hormonal changes can also trigger IBS symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome sufferers may experience any of a wide range of symptoms. In addition, these symptoms may be more or less severe from one individual to another, and even one flare-up to another. Some of the more common symptoms of IBS include pain in the abdomen, as well as cramping and bloating. Gas and diarrhea are also common. However, constipation may also be a symptom of IBS for some patients, and the presence of mucus in the stool is also a symptom.
How Is IBS Treated?
For the majority of patients, lifestyle and diet changes are needed to manage IBS. There is no cure. These patients will go their entire lives having to avoid certain foods and beverages, or even situations in which stress levels climb. Stress management techniques, and even behavioral therapy may be required. For other patients, though, the only way to mitigate the painful symptoms of their condition is to take prescription medications. However, stem cell therapy offers an effective alternative for all patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
How Does Stem Cell Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Work?
Stem cell therapy has been shown to be particularly effective in treating conditions where inflammation is seen (including IBS). In addition, laboratory-based clinical studies into the use of stem cells to treat irritable bowel syndrome and other GI-related diseases is ongoing.
Researchers in Copenhagen recently reported success in treating IBS in mice by using stem cells to repair damage to the colon. Speaking of how stem cells work in this repair, Kim Jensen, M.D. and author of the study, explains,
“The cells can initially serve as a patch covering ulcerated regions to allow the intestine to heal. This is, in principle, a bulk standard stem cell therapy approach, using immature cells for the transplantation.”
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are the building blocks of the entire human body. They exist before any other cell type, and remain in our bodies from birth all the way through old age, although they decline in number as we grow older. Stem cells are also unique in that they can transform into any other type of cell, from lung tissue to heart tissue to colon lining tissue, depending on the needs of the body. As such, they form the crux of our healing and regeneration system.
There are currently two types of stem cells being used to investigate IBS treatment through stem cell therapy. These are autologous stem cells and allogeneic stem cells. Autologous stem cells are your own. They’re harvested from your body, usually from fat tissue, and then grown and multiplied in a lab before being injected back into your body. That sounds ideal, but it actually has many problems. The most important issue here is that your stem cells are old – they’re as old as your body. That means they have lost much of their original energetic nature. They have also accumulated toxins and genetic damage (mutations) over time, and that may trigger an immune response and/or rejection.
Allogeneic stem cells are different. These are harvested from donated umbilical cord blood and tissue. They are young, healthy and highly energetic. They also have no accumulated mutations and are immune-naïve, meaning that the immune system does not see them, and will not react negatively to their presence. That means little chance of rejection or an autoimmune response.
Of the two options, allogeneic stem cells are the better choice for all forms of treatment, including stem cell therapy for IBS. They can be injected directly into the colon, or they can be infused through an IV drip. As it seems to be more and more evident, IV infusion is no less effective, much cheaper, much safer and much less invasive than colon injections. Your doctor should discuss which method is right for your specific condition and your goals.
In the end, stem cell therapy for irritable bowel syndrome offers the chance to reverse the condition in patients with mild, moderate and even severe symptoms. However, this is an experimental treatment, and is not FDA approved. It is also important to work with a physician experienced with the use of allogeneic stem cells to help patients achieve positive health outcomes.