Dietary therapies for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have received increasing interest but predicting which patients will benefit remains a challenge due to a lack of mechanistic insight. We recently found evidence of a role for the microbiota in dietary modulation of pain signalling in a humanised mouse model of IBS. This randomised cross-over study aimed to test the hypothesis that pain relief following reduced consumption of fermentable carbohydrates is the result of changes in luminal neuroactive metabolites.
IBS (Rome IV) participants underwent four trial periods: two non-intervention periods, followed by a diet low (LFD) and high in fermentable carbohydrates for 3 weeks each. At the end of each period, participants completed questionnaires and provided stool. The effects of faecal supernatants (FS) collected before (IBS FS) and after a LFD (LFD FS) on nociceptive afferent neurons were assessed in mice using patch-clamp and ex vivo colonic afferent nerve recording techniques.
Total IBS symptom severity score and abdominal pain were reduced by the LFD (N=25; p<0.01). Excitability of neurons was increased in response to IBS FS, but this effect was reduced (p<0.01) with LFD FS from pain-responders. IBS FS from pain-responders increased mechanosensitivity of nociceptive afferent nerve axons (p<0.001), an effect lost following LFD FS administration (p=NS) or when IBS FS was administered in the presence of antagonists of histamine receptors or protease inhibitors.
In a subset of IBS patients with improvement in abdominal pain following a LFD, there is a decrease in pronociceptive signalling from FS, suggesting that changes in luminal mediators may contribute to symptom response.