Is the Irritable Gut an Inflamed Gut?
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Recent advances in the field of neuroimmunology have provided clear demonstrations of i) the neuromodulation of immune function, and ii) the involvement of the immune system in responses induced by psychologic stress in animals and in man. This has led to speculation about the role of the immune system in psychosocial disease. The irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by chronic gastrointestinal dysfunction, which may reflect in altered motility, epithelial function, or sensory perception in the gut. IBS is heterogeneous not only in terms of its clinical presentation but also in terms of its pathogenesis, and factors ranging from psychoneurotic behavior and emotional stress, to dietary fiber deficiency, food intolerance, and enteric infection have been implicated. There is evidence of an increase in the inflammatory cells present in the gut of some IBS patients and in an emerging literature that demonstrates the immunomodulation of the motor system of the gut. These findings invite speculation that the immune system may play a role in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of at least a subpopulation of IBS patients.
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