Bile Acid Deficiency in a Subgroup of Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome With Constipation Based on Biomarkers in Serum and Fecal Samples

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Apr;16(4):522-527. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2017.06.039. Epub 2017 Jun 27.


Background & aims: Short-term administration of delayed-release chenodeoxycholic acid to patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) accelerates colonic transit and reduces symptoms. A preliminary study has shown that patients with IBS-C have reduced levels of bile acids (BAs) in feces and reduced synthesis of BA. We compared the levels of primary and secondary BAs in fecal samples collected over a 48-hour period from patients with IBS-C on a diet that contained 100 g fat per day, and compared them with levels in samples from healthy volunteers (controls). We also examined the relationship between overall colonic transit and biomarkers of BAs in patients with IBS-C.

Methods: We performed a retrospective study of 45 patients with IBS-C and 184 controls. For controls, we estimated the 10th percentile of fasting serum levels of 7α-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one (C4, n = 184) and 48-hour fecal BAs (n = 46), and the 90th percentile of the fasting serum level of fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19, n = 50). Colonic transit was measured in patients using a validated scintigraphic method. Data from patients with IBS-C were analyzed using Spearman correlations to determine the relationships among levels of C4, FGF19, fecal BAs, and colonic transit.

Results: Among the patients with IBS-C, 2 of 45 had low serum levels of C4, 4 of 43 had increased serum levels of FGF19, and 6 of 39 had low levels of BAs in feces collected over 48 hours. Patients with IBS-C had a significant increase in the proportions of fecal lithocholic acid compared with controls (P = .04), and a decrease in deoxycholic acid compared with controls (P = .03). In patients with IBS-C, there were inverse relationships between serum levels of C4 and FGF19 and correlations among levels of 48-hour fecal BAs, colonic transit, and serum C4 and FGF19.

Conclusions: Approximately 15% of patients with IBS-C have reduced total BAs and level of deoxycholic acid in fecal samples collected over 48 hours on a 100 g fat diet. In these patients, lower levels of excretion of BAs into feces correlated with slower colonic transit.

Keywords: 7α-Hydroxy-4-Cholesten-3-One; Chenodeoxycholic Acid; Cholic Acid; GPBAR1 (G-Protein–Coupled Bile Acid Receptor 1).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bile Acids and Salts / deficiency*
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Constipation / epidemiology*
  • Feces / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Serum / chemistry*


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Biomarkers