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More than 14,000 experts on all things alimentary flocked to D.C.’s Convention Center last week for Digestive Disease Week, a conference featuring 5,343 abstracts on topics such as liver disease, colorectal cancer and the health clues in gut bacteria. For the millions suffering digestive woes, discoveries like those below suggest a light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally, a test for IBS

Some 40 million Americans struggle with irritable bowel syndrome, a diagnosis essentially given for lack of a better one. When all else is ruled out, IBS becomes the answer to the question of chronic cramping, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea. But that may change. Mark Pimentel, director of the GI Motility Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, discovered biomarkers for IBS that he links to food poisoning. In a trial of 2,681 people, his blood test distinguished people with diarrhea-predominant IBS from healthy subjects and those with other digestive diseases. This not only validates IBS as a disease, he says, but offers a shorter path to treatment for patients who often endure unnecessary procedures. Current therapy involves antibiotics and a restricted diet, but identifying IBS’ cause may beget new treatments. The blood test is available through ibschek.com.

Docs delay celiac diagnosis in women

That men with celiac disease get diagnosed sooner than women has been established, says Luc Biedermann, a gastroenterologist with University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland. That doctors are to blame marks a new finding, he says of his study. Among 1,689 patients, 76 percent of whom were female, women and men took about the same amount of time (more than three years) to see a doctor for their symptoms. But the gap widens from there. In 75 percent of patients, male celiacs were diagnosed within a year, while female celiacs waited 31 months for their diagnosis. Biedermann ruled out that a diagnosis of IBS, which is more common in women, caused the delay, concluding that doctors seem inclined to “downplay, ignore or postpone these symptoms” in women. A delayed diagnosis can cause nutritional deficits and more difficulty managing the disease, he says.

A more pleasant colonoscopy prep?

“A day doesn’t go by in the endoscopy suite when you don’t have patients very reasonably and understandably gripe,” says L. Campbell Levy, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. Chiefly, they complain about the prep — 15 to 24 hours of fasting and having to chug two to four liters of a thick, salty laxative, Levy says. Fear of this regimen is the leading reason people avoid a colonoscopy, a top tool for colon cancer screening. Up to
15 percent of patients don’t complete the prep, according to Levy’s research, which tested a food-based prep in a pilot study of 10 patients. The laxative-laced foods, such as smoothies and puddings, went over so well with subjects that they all said they’d repeat it for a future procedure. A second trial is underway, and a third would be needed before the product (ColonaryConcepts) would come to market.

 

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