Irritable bowel syndrome: emerging paradigm in pathophysiology

World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Mar 14;20(10):2456-69. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i10.2456.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. These symptoms cannot be explained by structural abnormalities and there is no specific laboratory test or biomarker for IBS. Therefore, IBS is classified as a functional disorder with diagnosis dependent on the history taking about manifested symptoms and careful physical examination. Although a great deal of research has been carried out in this area, the pathophysiology of IBS is complex and not completely understood. Multiple factors are thought to contribute to the symptoms in IBS patients; altered gastrointestinal motility, visceral hypersensitivity, and the brain-gut interaction are important classical concepts in IBS pathophysiology. New areas of research in this arena include inflammation, postinfectious low-grade inflammation, genetic and immunologic factors, an altered microbiota, dietary factors, and enteroendocrine cells. These emerging studies have not shown consistent results, provoking controversy in the IBS field. However, certain lines of evidence suggest that these mechanisms are important at least a subset of IBS patients, confirming that IBS symptoms cannot be explained by a single etiological mechanism. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that IBS requires a more holistic approach to determining effective treatment and understanding the underlying mechanisms.

Keywords: Diet; Enteroendocrine cell; Genetics; Immunologic; Inflammation; Irritable bowel syndrome; Microbiota; Pathophysiology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Enteroendocrine Cells / metabolism
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Intestines / innervation
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Intestines / physiopathology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / genetics
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / immunology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / metabolism
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / microbiology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Phenotype
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction


  • Inflammation Mediators