Watching what you eat may not be anything new as a way to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
However, following a diet based on the results of food sensitivity testing could be a game-changer.
Researchers from Yale University have concluded that the Alcat test could guide people with IBS on what foods to avoid, thus reducing intensity of symptoms.
Dr. Michelle S. Cohen, an assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explained that IBS is divided into different categories based on bowel habits that patients experience.
Of many tests already available for IBS, the Alcat test hadn’t been assessed in detail. It looks at leukocytes, a type of immune cell, to determine food sensitivities.
The test manufacturers funded the study, but Yale designed and conducted the research.
Participants went on diets that either restricted foods according to the test results or diets that weren’t consistent with test results.
Upon assessing the results, the researchers noted that all participants saw improvement.
Those on diets that adhered to the test results, however, had better outcomes, including improvement in symptoms such as swelling and abdominal pain.
As for the test, it may see renewed interest since the study results have been published.
“If our results can be replicated in larger and more diverse samples, we would consider this a new potential pathway for treatment,” Ather Ali, ND, MPH, MHS, an assistant professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Yale School of Medicine and a study lead author, said.
Pathways for treatment
Although more than two-thirds of people with IBS identify food as an important trigger for their gastrointestinal symptoms, there has been little attention paid to diet-based solutions, noted Dr. William D. Chey, a professor of gastroenterology and internal medicine at the University of Michigan.
Over the past decade, there have been a few studies looking at different dietary interventions for people with IBS, including the new Yale research.
“There is certainly cause for optimism as this is the first study that I am aware of to show possible benefits of an elimination diet based upon leukocyte activation testing,” Chey told Healthline.
The study involved only 58 people, so more research would be needed to make a definitive conclusion that this is a viable solution for IBS.
One of the biggest research focuses for IBS relief is on treatments impacting the gut microbiome.
“Diet is starting to play a key role in the treatment of IBS,” Chey said. “Behavioral treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy or hypnosis are also very effective for some patients.”
“There remains a great deal of interest in probiotics and non-absorbable antibiotics like rifaximin, which is already FDA approved for IBS-D [IBS with diarrhea],” he added.
Similar to basing a diet on the food sensitivity test, these solutions could include choosing treatments based on the gut.
Another pathway is looking at fecal transplantation as an IBS treatment.
“The key for us going forward will be to move away from a ‘one size fits all’ toward a personalized medicine approach,” Chey said.