Psychiatric Illnesses May Involve Changes in Only Two Genes



A new study shows that changes in only two genes may account for most psychiatric illnesses.


 

PSYCHIATRIC ILLNESSES MAY INVOLVE CHANGES IN ONLY TWO GENES

As most regular readers of Weekly Health Update know, I rarely discuss psychiatric research studies here, as most behavioral studies are based upon lower level research methodologies, and many of these studies also take inadequate safeguards, in my view, to eliminate inherent biases. However, every now and then, a psychiatric study comes along that catches my attention, and merits further discussion.

Currently, psychiatric diagnoses are based upon clinical symptoms that are organized into diagnostic groups contained in the “bible” of Psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “DSM.” Because specific psychiatric diagnoses are based almost entirely on the subjective observation of signs and symptoms of mental illness, rather than objective test results, there is enormous potential for misdiagnosis. Moreover, many psychiatric diagnoses are associated with overlapping clusters of symptoms, which further increases the likelihood of misdiagnosis (and inappropriate treatment).

A new research study, which appears in the current issue of the journal The Lancet, strongly suggests that several common mental health disorders long thought to be unrelated to each other may, in fact, share a common biological basis, at least in some patients. The striking findings of this novel genetic study may dramatically change the way that psychiatrists diagnose and manage patients with psychiatric illnesses.

In this landmark study, 33,332 patients with psychiatric illnesses and 27,888 healthy control subjects underwent sequencing of their entire complement of DNA (“genome”), looking for genetic variations known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). (These common variations in the individual “letters” of our genetic code are responsible for many of the differences that exist among us, including hair color, eye color, and other variations, or traits, that can be readily observed.) The researchers then used very complex genetic analysis tools to search for SNPs that appeared to be linked, specifically, to the diagnosis of 5 different psychiatric illnesses in this large population of research subjects.

The results of this landmark study go a long way towards explaining the inaccuracies and inconsistencies commonly associated with the clinical diagnosis of psychiatric illnesses based upon DSM diagnostic criteria. Another very important result of this study is that it provides a potential explanation for the actual genetic and biological basis for at least some cases of common psychiatric illnesses.

Based upon the enormous amount of genetic information collected in this study, SNPs at four specific genetic sites were found to be strongly associated with the following 5 common psychiatric illnesses: autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder (depression), and schizophrenia. What was especially fascinating was the finding that genetic variations at these four sites involved just two genes, both of which are associated with calcium channels that act like microscopic gates that allow calcium to move into or out of cells.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this study’s findings. For perhaps the first time, there is now genetic and biological data linking the 5 most common major psychiatric illnesses to specific locations in just two genes, which argues against the current clinical view that each of these illnesses are completely unrelated to each other. Indeed, the finding that variations in only two genes may account for these 5 common psychiatric illnesses is hugely significant, as is the finding that these two genes, which are involved in the construction of calcium channels, may play a fundamental role in the development of these seemingly unrelated illnesses.

The findings of this pivotal study will, hopefully, help psychiatrists to move away from the current subjective, and often arbitrary, methods of clinically diagnosing and treating psychiatric illnesses, and move towards making diagnoses based upon objective gene-based (“molecular”) and biological findings. Moreover, reaching a clearer understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying these common psychiatric illnesses may also lead to innovative new treatment options for patients with mental health illnesses.

 

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.com Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.

 

Links to Other Breaking Health News

Physically Fit Kids Do Better on Math & Reading Tests

How Melanoma Skin Cancer Evades the Immune System

Possible Link Between BPA and Asthma

Toddler May Have Been Cured of HIV (AIDS) Virus

Baby Boomers Appear Less Healthy Than Their Parents

The Biology of Love in the Brain

Millennials May be the Most Stressed-Out Generation

Even Modest Alcohol Intake Raises Cancer Risk

Horse Meat Scandal Rocks Britain

Why Do Boys Receive Lower Grades than Girls?

Negative Emotions and Feelings Can Damage Your Health

Canker Sore Drug Cures Obesity (At Least in Mice…)

How Technology is Changing the Practice of Medicine

New Salt Intake Guidelines for Children

High Levels of Distress in Childhood May Increase Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Growing Immune Cells to Fight Cancer

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Thousands of Surgery Mistakes Are Still Happening Each Year

New Graphic Antismoking Ads Debut in England

Kids with Food Allergies May Become Targets of Bullies

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Tamoxifen for 10 Years (Instead of 5 Years) Significantly Improves Breast Cancer Survival Rate

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods

 

Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.6 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


Bookmark and Share






































Post to Twitter

Yoga Improves Chronic Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors

Welcome to Weekly Health Update



YOGA IMPROVES CHRONIC FATIGUE IN BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS

Breast cancer remains the most common serious cancer to afflict women, and the second most common cause of cancer-related death in women (second only to lung cancer).  In 2012, most patients with breast cancer will undergo surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy as standard treatments for their cancer, and as many as 1 in 3 breast cancer survivors will go on to experience chronic fatigue after completing their extensive therapy for this common disease.

Many interventions have been proposed for chronic post-treatment fatigue in breast cancer survivors, but none of these interventions have been subjected to the scrutiny of high quality, prospective, randomized, controlled clinical research studies to validate their effectiveness.  However, a newly published prospective, randomized, controlled clinical research study suggests that lyengar yoga may be an effective intervention for chronic fatigue following breast cancer treatment.  This new study appears in the current issue of the journal Cancer.

Thirty-one female breast cancer survivors with chronic fatigue were randomized to one of two groups in this study.  Sixteen of these women were randomized to a yoga instruction group for 12 weeks (the “experimental” group), while the other 15 women were randomized to 12 weeks of health education classes (the “control” group).  At the end of the 12-week study period, and again 3 months later, the two groups of women were assessed for changes in fatigue levels (compared to baseline, at the time of their entry into the study); as well as changes in vigor, depressive symptoms, sleep quality, perceived stress levels, and physical performance status.

Following analysis of the data, the authors of this study concluded that 12 weeks of yoga training significantly improved the severity of chronic post-treatment fatigue in breast cancer survivors, when compared to 12 weeks of health education instruction.  (Importantly, this improvement in fatigue levels was maintained for at least 3 months after completion of 12 weeks of yoga classes.)  Additionally, the yoga group experienced significant improvements in physical vigor, when compared to the health education group of women.  At the same time, both groups of women reported improvements in depressive symptoms and perceived stress at the end of this clinical study, while no significant improvements in sleep quality or physical performance status were noted in either group of study participants.

This study is the first prospective, randomized, controlled clinical research study to show that a 12-week intervention with yoga training leads to significant and sustained improvements in chronic fatigue and physical vigor among women who have completed multidisciplinary therapy for breast cancer.  Based upon the findings of this small but important clinical study, breast cancer survivors who are struggling with post-treatment chronic fatigue might want to check out a yoga studio in their neighborhood!


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 




Bookmark and Share





































Post to Twitter

New Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

 

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”


NEW TREATMENT FOR IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)

An estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population suffers from a complex of gastrointestinal symptoms that are collectively referred to as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects women three times more commonly than men, and has historically been considered a “wastebasket” diagnosis for patients with functional gastrointestinal (GI) complaints when no other specific diagnosis can be found. 

While the precise causes of IBS are not well understood at this time, various theories have been proposed.  These include abnormal responses to infections of the GI tract, abnormal hormonal and neurological function of the GI tract, hypersensitivity to certain types of foods, abnormal motility of the colon, a “hyper-awareness” of bodily functions, and certain psychiatric conditions, in addition to other hypotheses.  (It is almost certain, however, that there is more than one cause for IBS.)

There are a variety of symptoms that have been associated with IBS, and the incidence, severity and frequency of each of these symptoms varies considerably from one IBS patient to another.  Typically, however, IBS-associated symptoms include bloating, crampy abdominal pain, diarrhea alternating with periods of constipation, and the passage of clear or white mucus from the rectum.  In many cases, IBS symptoms are more pronounced after eating, and patients with IBS often experience a powerful urge to move their bowels after meals.  IBS symptoms are also more frequent and more severe during times of stress.  In women with IBS, these distressing GI symptoms may become more intense around the time of their menstrual periods.  Other symptoms that have been commonly observed in patients with IBS include heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.

Because the precise causes of IBS are poorly understood, there have been a wide range of treatments recommended for this syndrome.  For example, exercise and other stress-reducing activities may be helpful for some IBS sufferers.  Giving up tobacco, and reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption may also help to reduce IBS symptoms, while promoting improved overall health at the same time.  Keeping a food diary can also help to identify foods that tend to provoke or worsen IBS symptoms in many patients.  Finally, dietary fiber supplementation has been almost universally advocated by most IBS experts.  Unfortunately, for many IBS sufferers, these and other recommended treatments for IBS are often ineffective. 

A new prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical research study, just published in the journal Gut, has evaluated a new medical treatment for IBS that may hold promise for some of the millions of people who suffer from the unpleasant symptoms of this condition.  This small clinical research study included 60 patients with IBS.  Half of these IBS patients were randomized to receive an antihistamine medication (ketotifen) that prevents inflammatory “mast cells” from releasing inflammatory substances.  (Mast cells are present throughout the body, including the respiratory tract and the GI tract; and when stimulated, they release histamine and other substances that cause swelling and inflammation of adjacent tissues.)  The remaining half of this group of study volunteers was secretly randomized to receive an identical placebo (sugar) pill.  This study lasted for 8 weeks, altogether. 

At the start of this prospective clinical study, the 60 patient volunteers with IBS underwent an initial “barostat” study of the rectum.  This test involves the insertion of a balloon-like device into the rectum.  The balloon is then slowly inflated, which distends the rectal wall.  Prior studies have shown that many IBS patients perceive rectal discomfort with significantly less rectal distension than patients without IBS, a response that has been termed “visceral hypersensitivity.”  One theory as to why IBS patients experience visceral hypersensitivity relates to the abnormal activation of mast cells in the GI tract which, in turn, release multiple substances, including histamine, that generate an inflammatory response.

The 60 IBS patient volunteers also underwent biopsies of the rectum, and the results of these biopsies were compared with rectal biopsies taken from 22 age- and gender-matched “control” patients without IBS.  These biopsy specimens were then assessed for the number of inflammatory mast cells present, as well as the extent to which these mast cells spontaneously released inflammatory substances such as histamine and tryptase.

At the end of the 8-week study, the 60 IBS patient volunteers underwent a repeat barostat study of the rectum.  Among the IBS patient volunteers who experienced visceral hypersensitivity at the time of their initial barostat study, ketotifen significantly reduced the severity of visceral hypersensitivity when compared to similar patients who had been secretly randomized to receive placebo pills.  (There was no apparent change in visceral sensitivity associated with ketotifen among the IBS patients who had a normal response to initial barostat testing, however.)  More importantly, the IBS patients who had secretly been randomized to receive ketotifen reported significant improvement in abdominal pain and the other classic symptoms of IBS, when compared to the patient who had been randomized to receive placebo pills.  At the same time, the results of the rectal biopsies actually revealed fewer mast cells in the rectal biopsy specimens of IBS patients when compared to the control patients.  Moreover, there was only a very slight increase in histamine release by these rectal mast cells observed in IBS patients, when compared to the control patients.  (These latter two observations call into question the theory that increased numbers of mast cells, or/and an increased release of inflammatory substances from these mast cells, are responsible for visceral hypersensitivity in IBS patients, or for other symptoms commonly associate with IBS.  They also suggest that the favorable effects of ketotifen on the symptoms of IBS among these patient volunteers are likely occurring by a mechanism other than inhibition of mast cells within the GI tract.)

As I have noted in previous columns on this topic, there are likely multiple causes of IBS, and, therefore, individual treatments for this condition are not likely be equally effective in every patient with IBS.  However, the results of this small, early-phase study offer the hope that ketotifen (and, perhaps, other so-called “H1 antihistamines”), may be able to relieve the distressing symptoms of IBS in at in least some patients with this chronic GI syndrome.

 

To review previous columns on IBS, please select the following links:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Diet & Fiber

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Cause Discovered?

 

Watch for the publication of my new landmark evidence-based book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” in September of this year.



 

Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author



For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link: 

Texas Blues Jam



I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit our premier global health information website every month.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.



 

Bookmark and Share



 

Post to Twitter

Physician Error

 

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”


PHYSICIAN ERROR

Ah ne’er so dire a Thirst of Glory boast,
Nor in the Critick let the Man be lost!
Good-Nature and Good-Sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive divine.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

 

According to the prestigious Institute of Medicine, between 50,000 and 100,000 patient deaths are caused each year in the United States by negligence on the part of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers.  Nearly 1,000,000 patient injuries per year are also attributed to human error in the delivery of health care.

The presumptive causes underlying negligence in patient care are multiple and varied, and continue to be the subject of much debate among patient safety experts.  However, virtually all such experts agree that largely preventable human errors account for the vast majority of patient injuries and deaths associated with negligent patient care.

In the operating room, where I spend much of my time, as a cancer surgeon, we have adopted patient safety “check lists” inspired by the airline industry, and which are designed to reduce the possibility of errors during surgery.  At our institution, the patient’s identity (and the surgical procedure to be performed) is confirmed, twice, by everyone in the operating room before an incision is made.  Towards the end of the surgical procedure, an additional “debriefing” is performed, and the surgeon reviews the procedures that he or she has just performed.  The operating room nurse also confirms that all sponges, needles, and instruments have been accounted for, in an effort to reduce the possibility that any of these foreign bodies will be left within the patient.

 

One important aspect of physician error is that of errors in diagnosis.  In a newly published clinical study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics, 1,362 pediatricians at three major academic medical centers, and 109 affiliated clinics, were invited to anonymously complete an Internet-based survey regarding their self-perceived frequency of diagnostic errors.  These doctors included experienced academic pediatricians, experienced community-based pediatricians, and resident doctors who were training to become pediatricians.  Altogether, 53 percent of the queried pediatricians agreed to complete the anonymous survey. 

More than half (54 percent) of these responding doctors indicated that they made significant diagnostic errors at least one or two times per month.  Not surprisingly, the resident doctors in training acknowledged the highest number of diagnostic errors, with 77 percent of these trainees admitting to at least one or two significant diagnostic errors per month.

Based upon their anonymous responses, nearly half (45 percent) of these 726 pediatricians believed that one or more of their diagnostic errors had harmed patients at least once or twice per year. 

When asked to analyze the underlying causes for their errors, these doctors cited the following explanations:  failure to gather adequate patient history information, inadequate physical examination, inadequate review of the patient’s chart, and inadequate coordination of care and communication among the providers involved (“inadequate teamwork”). 

Specific examples of diagnostic errors cited by these pediatricians included viral illnesses being misdiagnosed as bacterial infections, misdiagnosis of medication side effects, misdiagnosis of psychiatric disorders, and misdiagnosis of appendicitis. 

When asked to offer solutions to common diagnostic errors, these pediatricians most commonly recommended the implementation of electronic health records, as well as closer patient follow-up.

(It is important to note that, in view of the human tendency to “under-report” personal failures, it is very likely that the true incidence of significant diagnostic errors is actually considerably higher than what these pediatricians have self-reported in this study.)

 

In a perfect world, we physicians would never make the wrong diagnosis, or miss a diagnosis altogether, or miss an adverse reaction to medications or other treatments.  We would never prescribe the wrong medication or perform the wrong operation; and we would never, through acts of either commission or omission, perform anything less than a perfect surgical operation.  Unfortunately, the practice of Medicine, as with all human endeavors, will never become a “zero error” profession.  However, all of us, both patients and physicians (and physicians are patients, as well), certainly would agree that every effort must be made to drive preventable patient care errors down as close to “zero” as is humanly possible. 

While it is unlikely that human error can ever be completely eliminated, in Medicine or in any other profession, the findings of this important study are significant, and point to areas where substantial improvements in the delivery of health care can be achieved by physicians and other health care providers (and, I might add, by patients as well). 

 

Look for the imminent publication of my new landmark evidence-based book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” in August of this year. 



Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-Tdv7XW0qg



I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 new and returning readers who visit our premier global health information website every month.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.



 

Bookmark and Share



 

Post to Twitter

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Cause Discovered?

 

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”


IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: CAUSE DISCOVERED?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood cluster of gastrointestinal (GI) tract symptoms that typically includes varying degrees of abdominal bloating and crampy pain, diarrhea, constipation, and the frequent discharge of mucus-like stools from the rectum.  At any one time, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of all Americans chronically experience one or more of these intestinal symptoms.  In most patients with IBS, these symptoms begin in childhood.  In the United States, and in most other Western countries, IBS is at least 3 times more common in women than in men although, interestingly, in Southeast Asia, men are 2 to 3 times more commonly afflicted with IBS.

Numerous theories about the cause(s) of IBS have been proposed, but none have been definitively proven to cause this common syndrome, thus far.  Because the precise cause(s) of IBS has not yet been determined, there is no specific medical test available to diagnose this condition.  Likewise, there is no specific treatment available for IBS, although fiber supplements and careful attention to dietary “triggers” are often helpful.  Moreover, as IBS is frequently associated with chronic depression and/or anxiety, the use of some types of antidepressant medications has also been associated with an improvement in IBS symptoms.

Among the numerous proposed causes of IBS, an excess of a powerful hormone and neurotransmitter, serotonin, within the GI tract has been the focus of considerable research, lately.  (Serotonin is also commonly known as 5-HT, which is an abbreviated form of serotonin’s chemical name.) 

Serotonin has been shown to have multiple functions within the human body.  Decreased serotonin levels in the brain have been associated with both depression and anxiety, which explains why the most commonly used antidepressant medications, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are used to treat both chronic depression and anxiety.  (Commonly prescribed SSRIs include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro and Celexa, among others.)  Because more than 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the GI tract, SSRI drugs also have a profound effect on GI tract function, in addition to their effects on brain serotonin levels.  Indeed, previous observations that certain SSRI antidepressant medications worsen cramping and diarrhea in patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS have at least suggested that serotonin in the GI tract may play an important role in this common form of IBS.

Another serotonin-related disease that is associated with severe abdominal cramping and diarrhea is carcinoid syndrome.  In this relatively rare condition, serotonin-secreting carcinoid tumors of the GI tract cause profuse, watery diarrhea in affected patients after these tumors spread to the liver.

Based upon these apparent clinical links between IBS and serotonin (and for diarrhea-predominant IBS, in particular), additional research into the metabolism of serotonin in the GI tract of IBS sufferers is sorely needed.  Fortunately, a newly published research study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Gastroenterology, sheds further light on the potential link between serotonin and at least some forms of IBS.

In this novel clinical research study, 98 children with chronic GI tract symptoms were evaluated.  Twelve of these children presented with chronic symptoms suggestive of IBS.  Endoscopic GI tract biopsies were performed on these 12 children, and the results of these biopsies were compared with similar biopsies performed on other age-matched children who were undergoing endoscopy for reasons other than IBS symptoms.

When compared with the biopsy results on the “control” children without IBS symptoms, the children with IBS symptoms were found to have significantly elevated levels of serotonin (5-HT) in the mucosal cells lining their GI tract.  At the same time, the children with IBS symptoms were also found to have lower levels of a protein that is responsible for removing serotonin from the GI tract (serotonin transporter protein, or SERT) when compared to the children without IBS symptoms.  Therefore, these two findings, in children with chronic IBS symptoms, further and strongly suggest that an excess of serotonin in the gut may be associated with classic IBS symptoms.

In view of the varying degrees of diarrhea and constipation (and other IBS-associated symptoms) observed among individual patients considered to have IBS, it is highly likely that this syndrome has more than just one cause.  However, the biopsy-proven excess of serotonin in the GI tracts of the 12 children in this study with chronic IBS symptoms is a powerful indication that the abnormal regulation and metabolism of GI tract serotonin likely plays an important (if not causative) role in many, if not most, cases of this chronic and very common GI affliction.  The data from this powerful little clinical study also supports the continued development and clinical testing of serotonin/5-HT blocking (antagonist) agents in patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS.

 

For additional information on IBS, please see my previous column on this topic:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Diet & Fiber

 

 

To learn more about the critical role of diet in the prevention of cancer, look for the publication of my new landmark book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” in the summer of this year. 



Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link: 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-Tdv7XW0qg



I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 new and returning readers who visit our premier global health information website every month.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.



 

Bookmark and Share



 

Post to Twitter

Better Tag Cloud