Intestinal membrane permeability and hypersensitivity in the irritable bowel syndrome

Qi Qi Zhou, Buyi Zhang, G. Nicholas Verne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

236 Scopus citations


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder in which the underlying pathophysiology is poorly understood; however, increased intestinal permeability in diarrhea-predominant IBS patients has been reported. Here we demonstrate that diarrhea-predominant IBS (D-IBS) patients display increased intestinal permeability. We have also found that increased intestinal membrane permeability is associated with visceral and thermal hypersensitivity in this subset of D-IBS patients. We evaluated 54 D-IBS patients and 22 controls for intestinal membrane permeability using the lactulose/mannitol method. All subjects ingested 5 g of lactulose and 2 g of mannitol in 100 ml of water after which their urine was collected. We also evaluated the mean mechanical visual analogue scale (M-VAS) pain rating to nociceptive thermal and visceral stimulation in all subjects. All study participants also completed the FBDSI scale. Approximately 39% of diarrhea-predominant IBS patients had increased intestinal membrane permeability as measured by the lactulose/mannitol ratio. These IBS patients also demonstrated higher M-VAS pain intensity reading scale. Interestingly, the IBS patients with hypersensitivity and increased intestinal permeability had a higher FBDSI score (100.8 ± 5.4) than IBS patients with normal membrane permeability and sensitivity (51.6 ± 12.7) and controls (6.1 ± 5.6) (p < 0.001). A subset of D-IBS patients had increased intestinal membrane permeability that was associated with an increased FBDSI score and increased hypersensitivity to visceral and thermal nociceptive pain stimuli. Thus, increased intestinal membrane permeability in D-IBS patients may lead to more severe IBS symptoms and hypersensitivity to somatic and visceral stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-46
Number of pages6
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional Bowel Disorder Severity Index (FBDSI)
  • Intestinal membrane permeability
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Visceral and thermal hypersensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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