Evidence-Based IBS Treatment Recommendations from ACG

A recent  American College of Gastroenterology Task Force conducted a systematic review (AC Ford et al. The American Journal of Gastroenterology 2018;113:1–18 ) to update management recommendations for irritable bowel syndrome -Link:

American College of Gastroenterology Monograph on Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The highlights of this report are summarized at Gastroenterology & Hepatoloy: Highlights of the Updated Evidence-Based IBS Treatment Monograph

A few excerpts:

“There have been numerous studies performed on the roles of diet and dietary manipulation in IBS. Three fairly firm conclusions were made following the review of these studies: (1) the low–fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyol (FODMAP) diet seems to be effective for overall IBS symptom improvement; (2) a gluten-free diet is not effective for symptom improvement; and (3) conducting tests to detect various types of allergies or intolerances in order to base a diet on those results does not appear to be effective. Of these 3 conclusions, the most impressive data that came out of the research was the evidence for the low-FODMAP diet. Not only were there more studies on this diet, but the results were fairly consistent and favorable, at least for the short-term management of IBS.”

” We did not find evidence supporting the idea that prebiotics and synbiotics were effective in IBS management… In ­contrast, studies demonstrated that probiotics did improve global gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as the individual symptoms of bloating and flatulence in patients with IBS. However, determining which probiotic is best was difficult”

“Three prosecretory agents are available: linaclotide (Linzess, Allergan/Ironwood Pharmaceuticals), lubiprostone (Amitiza, Takeda), and plecanatide (Trulance, Synergy Pharmaceuticals), with plecanatide being the most recently approved agent. All 3 of these agents had convincing data to support their use in patients with constipation-predominant IBS

My take: In IBS patients, if dietary therapy is recommended, current evidence favors a low FODMAP diet rather than a gluten-free diet.

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Low Quality Evidence for IBS Dietary Therapy

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis (J Dionne et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2018; 113: 1290-1300) throws some shade on the effectiveness of dietary therapies for irritable bowel syndrome. Thanks to Ben Gold for this reference. The authors reviewed 1726 citations -only 9 were eligible for systematic review; two RCTs (n=111 participants) with gluten-free diet (GFD) and 7 RCTs (n=397) with low FODMAPs diet.

Key findings:

  • A GFD was associated with reduced global symptoms compared with control interventions (RR=0.42, CI 0.11-1.55) which was not statistically significant.  Thus, there is “insufficient evidence to recommend a GFD to reduce IBS symptoms.”
  • A low FODMAP diet was associated with reduced global symptoms compared with control interventions (RR=0.69, CI 0.54-0.88). The three RCTs with rigorous control diets found the least magnitude of effect. Thus, the overall quality of the data was “very low” according to the GRADE criteria.

Given the limited data supporting dietary therapy for IBS, the authors caution that in those who are placed on a low FODMAPs diet, that after a 2-6 week trial, those who “fail to improve should not continue the diet. ”

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Differential Microbiome Effects of Prebiotics and low FODMAPs

A recent study (J-W Huaman et al. Gastroenterol 2018; 155: 1004-7) examined the effects of a prebiotic (Bimuno) and a low FODMAPs diet for the treatment of functional GI disorders and their effects on the microbiome.

This was a randomized controlled 4-week trial with a 2-week followup period.  Those who received the prebiotic (N=19) received a placebo diet (Mediterranean-type) and those who were randomized to a low FODMAP diet (n=21) were instructed to consume a placebo.  The prebiotic contained beat-galactooligosaccharide.

Key findings:

  • Both groups had significant reduction in GI symptoms, though low FODMAPs was the only treatment helpful for flatulence/borborygmi.
  • The symptom reduction persisted in the prebiotic group for the 2 -week follow-up period, whereas symptoms reappeared immediately in the low FODMAP group.
  • The two treatments had opposite effects on the intestinal microbiota –the prebiotic treatment led to an increase in bifidobacteria and a decrease in Bilophilia wadsworthia.

My take: (borrowed from editorial pg 960-2): This study “may indicate that the effect of the prebiotic is mediated through its effects on gut microbiota composition, whereas the effect of the low FODMAP diets is more related to the meal composition…than to its effects on gut microbiota composition.”

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Another Study: Low FODMAPs Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Another good study on the low FODMAPs diet for irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D): S Eswaran et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2017; 15: 1890-9

This was a propspective, single-blind trial of 92 patients (84 completed study) with IBS-D (65 women) comparing the low FODMAPs diet to a modified diet recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for 4 weeks. Key findings:

  • The low FODMAPs group had larger increase in IBS-QOL score (15.0 vs 5.0).  In addition, based on IBS-QOL a meaningful clinical response occurred in 52% compared with 21% in the mNICE group.
  • Activity impairment was significantly reduced in the low FODMAPs group; -22.89 compared with -9.44.  Anxiety scores decreased as well.

My take: This study indicates that the low FODMAPs diet helps patient with IBS-D, and not just with their GI symptoms.

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Low FODMAP –Real World Experience

HM Staduacher et al. Gastroenterol October 2017; 153: 936–47

Key finding:

  • In this randomized, placebo-controlled study with 104 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the researchers spent only 10 minutes per patient teaching the low FODMAPs diet; yet 57% reported adequate relief of symptoms.

AGA Journals blog summary: Can a Diet Low in FODMAP Reduce IBS Symptoms in the Real World?

An excerpt:

Heidi Maria Staudacher et al aimed to investigate the effects of a diet low in FODMAPs compared with a sham diet in patients with IBS, and determine the effects of a probiotic on diet-induced alterations in the microbiota.

They performed a 2×2 factorial trial of 104 patients with IBS. Patients were either given counselling to follow a sham diet or diet low in FODMAPs for 4 weeks, but not the actual foods. Patients also received a placebo or multistrain probiotic formulation, resulting in 4 groups (27 receiving sham diet/placebo, 26 receiving sham diet/probiotic, 24 receiving low-FODMAP diet/placebo, and 27 receiving low-FODMAP diet/probiotic)…

In the per-protocol analysis, a significantly higher proportion of patients on the low-FODMAP diet had adequate symptom relief (61%) than in the sham diet group (39%).

The total mean IBS severity score was significantly lower for patients on the low-FODMAP diet (173 ± 95) than the sham diet (224 ± 89), but there was no significantly difference between patients given probiotic (207 ± 98) or placebo (192 ± 93).

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (part 2)

A terrific 12 page review of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): AC Ford, BE Lacy, NJ Talley. NEJM 2017; 376: 2566-78. While yesterday’s post reviewed some of the updated diagnostic and pathophysiology information, today’s will focus on treatment.

The article’s Table 2 outlines the most frequent treatments, their efficacy, side effects, costs, and quality of evidence. I’ve tried to highlight the key points from table and discussion:

  1. Soluble fiber (eg. psyllium). Efficacy: effective -start at low doses. Quality of evidence: Moderate, Cost: $15-30 per month.
  2. Low-FODMAP diet. Efficacy: “May be effective, nutritionist guidance helpful.” While there have been studies showing this diet can be effective, two studies have shown that this diet is not significantly superior to conventional IBS diets (eg. “eating small, regular meals and avoiding insoluble fiber, fatty foods, and caffeine”).Quality of evidence: Very low.
  3. Gluten-free diet.  Efficacy: May be effective.  “No additive effect over that of a low-FODMAP diet in another small RCT.” Quality of evidence: Very low.
  4. Antispasmodic drugs (eg. dicyclomine).Efficacy: May be effective. Quality of evidence: Low, “No high-quality trials.” Cost: $50 per month.
  5. Peppermint oil. Efficacy: Effective, though few RCTs and no FDA-approved end points. Quality of evidence: Moderate. “No high-quality trials.”  Cost: $9-19 per month
  6. Lubiprostone. Efficacy: Effective, though “only a modest benefit over placebo, particularly for abdominal pain.” Quality of evidence: Moderate. Cost: ~$350 per month.
  7. Linaclotide.  Efficacy: Effective.. ” Quality of evidence: High. “No high-quality trials.”  Cost: ~$350 per month.
  8. Alosetron/5-HT3 receptor antagonists.  Efficacy: Effective. ” Quality of evidence: High. “No high-quality trials.”  Cost: ~$350-1100 per month. Alosetron may trigger ischemic colitis.
  9. Eluxadoline.  Efficacy: Effective, though “only a modest benefit over placebo for global symptoms and no benefit over placebo for abdominal pain.”  Quality of evidence: High. “No high-quality trials.”  Cost: ~$1100 per month. May trigger pancreatitis.
  10. Rifaximin. Efficacy: Effective. Quality of evidence: Moderate. “Modest benefit over placebo.”  “Relapse among patients who have a response is usual.” Cost: ~$1500 per month.
  11. Probiotics. Efficacy: May be effective.  Quality of evidence: Low. “Few high-quality trials and no FDA-approved end points.”  Cost: ~$20 per month.
  12. Tricyclic antidepressants. Efficacy: Effective. Quality of evidence: Moderate.  “Few high-quality trials and no FDA-approved end points.”   “A meta-analysis showed that tricyclic antidepressants were more effective than placebo in 11 randomized trials involving a total of 744 patients.” Cost: ~$5-10 per month.
  13. Psychological treatments. Efficacy: Effective. Quality of evidence: Low.  “Few high-quality trials and no FDA-approved end points.” “Their efficacy may be overestimated because of the lack of blinding.” There is also difficulty for many patients in finding an appropriate provider.  Cost: ??
  14. Placebo. In treatment trials, a placebo response is noted in 30-40%.
  15. Complementary/Alternative Therapies.  “Herbal therapies remain unclear.  STW5 (Iberogast) has been tested and “showed superiority over placebo.” Melatonin “has been reported to reduce abdominal pain in patients with IBS.”

The authors recommend judicious testing  “Any reassurance derived from colonoscopy to rule out organic disease in patients with IBS is short-lived.”

The authors outline their typical approach.  “Reassurance, explanation, and a positive diagnosis are essential steps in management. We recommend starting with dietary modification (slowly increasing soluble fiber if the patient has IBS with constipation or instituting a low-FODMAP diet temporarily  if the patient has IBS with diarrhea or the mixed subtype of IBS). We also recommend increased exercise and stress reduction.  A probiotic may be added, especially if bloating is prominent.  Pain may be ameliorated with an antispasmodic agent or a tricyclic antidepressant, diarrhea with loperamide or a bile acid sequestrant (eg. colestipol) and constipation with polyethylene glycol.” The other therapies may be used in those with persistent IBS symptoms.

My take: When a disease has this many treatments, usually this means that none of the treatments are all that great.

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Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

In Case Someone Asks…Low FODMAP Maternal Diet May Help Colic

According to a very small study, maternal ingestion of a low FODMAP diet reduced crying in colicy babies who were breastfed.  This report was presented at the recent United European Gastroenterology meeting (P0609).  The study consisted of a single-blind, open-label study of 18 infants.  The key finding was reduced crying from 142 minutes to 90 minutes over the 2 week study period.

A summary of this report is available at gastroendonews.com (May 2016, pg 8).

My take: A bigger study is needed to ascertain whether this intervention is worthwhile.  Many kids get better during a 2 week period without treatment.