Irritable bowel syndrome: treatment based on pathophysiology and biomarkers

Gut. 2023 Mar;72(3):590-599. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2022-328515. Epub 2022 Oct 28.


Objective: To appraise the evidence that pathophysiological mechanisms and individualised treatment directed at those mechanisms provide an alternative approach to the treatment of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Design: A PubMED-based literature review of mechanisms and treatment of IBS was conducted independently by the two authors, and any differences of perspective or interpretation of the literature were resolved following discussion.

Results: The availability of several noninvasive clinical tests can appraise the mechanisms responsible for symptom generation in IBS, including rectal evacuation disorders, abnormal transit, visceral hypersensitivity or hypervigilance, bile acid diarrhoea, sugar intolerances, barrier dysfunction, the microbiome, immune activation and chemicals released by the latter mechanism. The basic molecular mechanisms contributing to these pathophysiologies are increasingly recognised, offering opportunities to intervene with medications directed specifically to food components, receptors and potentially the microbiome. Although the evidence supporting interventions for each mechanism is not at the same level of proof, the current state-of-the-art provides the opportunity to advance the practice from treatment based on symptoms to individualisation of treatment guided by pathophysiology and clinically identified biomarkers.

Conclusion: These advances augur well for the implementation of evidence-based individualised treatment for patients with IBS based on actionable biomarkers or psychological disturbances.

Keywords: irritable bowel syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Diarrhea
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome*


  • Biomarkers