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Is IBS Genetic?

By Adam Trainor February 14, 2020

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is more than just stomach cramps and having to go to the bathroom more (or less) frequently than normal.

It’s a condition that plagues up to 45 million people in the US and requires long-term management.

So how do you get IBS?

Is IBS genetic or do you catch it from someone else like the flu?

The answer to these questions isn’t so simple.

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but recent studies point out that the answer may be hidden in our genes.

father and son

IBS: A Quick Overview

There are a couple of misconceptions about IBS that I need to clear up.

First of all: IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder with an array of different symptoms, including but not limited to stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and poor sleep quality.

Even though IBS is quite common, people aren’t all too familiar with the condition. For instance, is IBS a chronic illness or is it an autoimmune disease?

For starters, no, IBS is not an autoimmune disease. IBS does not trigger our immune systems to mistakenly identify healthy cells and organs as foreign invaders and attack indiscriminately. However, a weakened immune system can trigger IBS attacks.

IBS is a chronic, non-fatal illness where symptoms can pop up at any moment. Symptoms can last anywhere from just a couple of days to several months, but sadly, for some patients, the condition will last a lifetime.

What Do Genes Have to Do with It?

Scientists have yet to uncover the main cause or causes behind this chronic illness – not for a lack of effort – but researchers looking at our genes might have found a potential lead.

2018 study helmed by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden discovered that DNA variants could be an underlying cause of IBS in women. Female subjects were used mainly because the illness is statistically more prevalent in women.

Using a pool of data obtained from over 300,000 people, the researchers found that a part of chromosome 9 – a collection of nucleic acids that represents roughly 4% of total cellular DNA – may cause a genetic predisposition to IBS.

This study does not offer any definitive clues concerning the role of genetics in IBS cases, let alone pinpointing the blame on a specific gene, but it could be a promising step in the right direction in determining the root cause of IBS once and for all.

Can I Pass IBS to My Children?

If perhaps genes have the potential to possibly lead to IBS in women… maybe… then what about our children?

Is there a chance that they could inherit the chronic illness from us?

So far, there is no evidence that shows this to be true.

But here’s the thing.

IBS triggers such as an unhealthy dietstress and anxiety, and lack of exercise can be inherited by — or taught to — our offspring.

a child in the kitchen

If the stars align in some ominous pattern, and we as parents make no effort to alter our children’s and our own lifestyles for the better...

...then their stomachs could experience the same excessive cramping and gassiness as ours.

In Conclusion

Science tells us that a link between the genetic coding in women and IBS might exist, but it may be too early to tell. 

In the meantime, there’s really not much we can do, especially considering that IBS currently has no cure, except stay away from the multitude of triggers that cause IBS flare-ups

Check with your physician to see what you can do to cope with IBS-related symptoms.


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