Representatives Engel of New York and Loebsack of Iowa Co-Sponsor HR 1187 for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders

June 28, 2017

According to IFFGD and the official Congressional legislative database, Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) and Representative Dave Loebsack (D-IA-2)  signed on earlier this month as co-sponsors of the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2017.

Representative Engel is serving his sixteenth term in the House of Representatives. His current district, the 16th Congressional District of New York, encompasses the northern portion of the Bronx, which is one of the boroughs of New York City, as well as parts of suburban southern Westchester County. Representative Engel is also a current member of the Subcommittee on Health, where HR 1187 is  under consideration.  See the linked website for a list of all current members. Representative Engel has a long record of supporting  a wide range of veterans’ issues and health issues, as seen on his official house website. As previously discussed on this blog on August 12, 2011 and August 25, 2011, military service members and veterans are at disproportionately high risk for functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, which are already very common in the general population.

Representative Loebsack is serving his sixth term in the House of Representatives. His district, the 2nd Congressional District of Iowa encompasses most of the southeastern region of the state including  the cities of Davenport, Iowa City, Clinton  and Ottumwa, among others. According to his official House website, Representative Loebsack is currently a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which includes the Subcommittee on Health. He has immediate family members currently serving in the military, previously served on the House Committee on Armed Services, and also has a strong record of supporting veterans’ issues.

In officially supporting HR 1187, Representatives Engel and Loebsack join Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) , who is the initial sponsor and Mark Pocan (D-WI-2) ,the initial co-sponsor. All of these Representatives also supported the previous version of this Act, HR 2311, in 2015-2016, and Representative Sensenbrenner has been the initial sponsor for all four versions of the Act since 2010. If you are a constituent of any of these legislators, please take a few minutes to call, write or contact him on social media to thank him for his continuing support of the functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders community.

U. S. citizens, if your Member of Congress is not yet a co-sponsor of HR 1187, please see the previous post from March 21, 2017 for links to the bill and more details on how to do so.  Often, it takes multiple attempts to elicit any interest from legislators, so if you do not receive a reply, do not hesitate to try again or to switch contact methods until you attract attention. Keep in mind that your Representative may be different from before because of the 2016 elections, district boundaries that may have been re-drawn, or if you have moved.

Your personal experiences as a person with IBS and/or other functional GI/motility disorders, or as a concerned family member, friend or colleague, are most effective in communicating to legislators and their staff that there are real human beings behind the statistics. However, even general expressions of support are helpful.

HR 1187 is bipartisan legislation (supported by members of both parties) and according to IFFGD discussions with IBS Impact,  is “revenue-neutral,” meaning that there will be no additional taxes or spending added to the current federal deficit if it is enacted. Discretionary funds are available at the National Institutes of Health to be allocated if Congress directs NIH, through this Act, that functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders are a priority. Congress will only do so if we, as a community, are able to show them the importance of the research, education and FDA coordination provided for in HR 1187.

NIH grants funding to researchers throughout the world, not just in the U.S., so in the long run, enactment of this Act may also benefit readers with IBS in other countries. Medical research also sometimes involves multinational teams of scientists, and in any case, study results are usually published globally, adding to the cumulative knowledge worldwide.

It is IBS Impact’s understanding that HR 1187 will not require a debate or vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, and will pass as soon as it reaches 218 sponsor/cosponsors, or a simple majority of the House. In order for this milestone to be accomplished during the current Congress, the 115th,  the necessary number of sponsor/cosponsors must be reached by December 2018. Every two years, the Congressional membership will be different as a result of elections. Thus, if HR 1187 has not passed by that time,  a similar bill will have to be reintroduced and the FGIMD community will have to start the process of gathering co-sponsors anew. This is what occurred with HR 2239 in 2012, HR 842 in 2014 and HR 2311 in 2016. While it is quite common for legislation of various sorts to take several Congresses to pass, our continuing advocacy now can increase awareness, build momentum and perhaps accelerate passage. It is in our hands.

Check back on this blog or join IBS Impact’s Facebook page or Twitter feed for further updates on HR 1187 as they occur. Links to the social media sites can be found on the right sidebar of the blog.

New Updates to IBS Main Website for June 2017

June 24, 2017

IBS Impact has recently completed the latest round of updates to many pages of our main website, IBS

A few links have been replaced with updated versions Several links, articles and new research studies seeking volunteers. have been added on the news footer, IBS page,  advocacy page, research page, IBS studies page, resources page, IBS and children page, family and friends page, and links page. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia are all represented in these most recent content changes, with several more countries represented in existing material.

Technical issues that were hindering or preventing mobile navigation by smartphones and tablets have been resolved, and other minor adjustments were made to improve site stability. We hope that this will make it easier for more people to use the site.

Readers interested in the most recent news, events, clinical trial and advocacy opportunities, and articles between main site updates, may follow this blog or our Facebook or Twitter feeds (links found on the lower right sidebar of this blog and in the light blue footer sections below each page of the main site).  Each has slightly different information on an ongoing basis. Regardless of one’s interest in IBS, whether personal or professional, most users should find useful and interesting material and links. The current site reflects resources in six countries which are among the top sources of hits to the site and this blog, with occasional references to several others.

Because of the redesign and transfer of the site to new hosting twice in 2015 and 2016, some links embedded in older posts on this blog or search engine results relating to IBS may result in error messages, but you should still reach the site itself. If so, please use the navigation links at the top of the site to reach the desired subpage.  No information that is still currently useful has been removed from the site, although in some cases, the location has changed. Only outdated details and occasional defunct links for which there is no replacement available at this time have been deleted. The date of last update is indicated at the bottom of subpages that change periodically.

Please feel free to check out the site here. Our goals with the website, blog and social media are to provide a varied range of current, scientifically accurate, reputable information and resources to people with IBS and their families and friends, and to encourage informed choices, proactive self-advocacy and worldwide public awareness of IBS, and the unmet medical or social needs many of us face as a result of IBS.

IBS Impact as an entity, is not directly affiliated with any other organization, site, or research sponsor and receives no funding for the information we post on the main website, this blog or our Twitter and Facebook pages. We do welcome constructive collaboration and value the many individuals, websites, organizations,  and clinical and research entities who continue to support, encourage and amplify our efforts in various ways to benefit the cause of IBS awareness and advocacy worldwide.

Comments, suggestions, corrections of outdated links, article submissions, and clinical trials or surveys by researchers affiliated with academic, medical, or pharmaceutical entities or reputable evidence-based organizations representing IBS or commonly overlapping conditions in any country are all welcome and will be thoughtfully considered. A contact form  can be found on the main site, or comments can be left on this blog.  Thank you to all of our readers and social media followers for your interest and participation.

Research Links Gut Microbiome Changes to Brain Structure in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

June 14, 2017

The international gastroenterology conference, Digestive Disease Week, which traditionally takes place annually in mid-to-late May or early June generally brings a wealth of news on state of the science developments in gastroenterology research for a range of conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). One of the interesting and groundbreaking articles presented this year,  which has received recent coverage in both scientific and mainstream media, is a collaboration of 14 researchers from UCLA, Texas Children’s Microbiome Center and Baylor College of Medicine,  and the Washington University School of Medicine in St, Louis, Missouri. The authors confirmed the existence of IBS microbiome subgroups as found in various researchers’ past work and made a preliminary identification of some specific microbes and their metabolites that appear to be involved. Also, for the first time, they found that structural differences in the brains of some study volunteers with IBS appear to correlate with gut microbiome composition.

The open access full text of the journal article, “Differences in gut microbial composition correlate with regional brain volumes in irritable bowel syndrome” by J. S. Labus, et al, was published in  Microbiome on May 1, 2017 and is linked above. “Study shows association between gut microbes and brain structure in people with IBS” by Enrique Rivero of the medical news website Medical XPress was published on May 5, 2017 based on information from UCLA. These sources were consulted for the summary below.

International IBS research in past years has previously established that IBS involves disruptions in the brain-gut-microbiome axis in both directions from the brain to the lower GI tract and from the GI tract to the brain. It also has been known that there are structural and functional brain changes in IBS, particularly in the areas controlling sensation and salience (a mechanism of the brain involved in attention to and perception of the relevance of stimuli), and particularly in those with a history of early trauma. Additionally, it has been known that there are changes in microbiome composition in those with IBS compared to healthy controls. However, until now, because of the extremely large number and range of different types of microbes present in the GI tract, it has been challenging to pinpoint specific and consistent microbes or to connect these patterns to the neurological differences. The above study has begun to do so.

The investigators obtained a variety of data from the volunteers including, history, physical exam, numerous standard questionnaires for various aspects of mental health, behavior, diet, and trauma history, if any,  as well as stool samples and brain imaging. The study participants included 29 adults with IBS according to Rome III international diagnostic criteria (in effect at the time, although Rome IV has been in effect since May 2016), about three-quarters of whom were female, representing all of the bowel habit subtypes, diarrhea, constipation, alternating or mixed, and unspecified/unsubtyped. There were 23 control subjects without IBS, all of whom were female. The IBS and control groups were roughly similar in average age. The average length of having IBS for those in the IBS group was 11.3 years, plus or minus 13.2 years.

There were no statistically significant differences in diet. Although a minority of the IBS group showed clinical anxiety and the total trauma history scores were similar between the two groups, those with IBS reported greater anxiety, stress, catastrophizing and trauma history.

The microbiome analyses showed that the participants with IBS fell into two groups. 14 individuals (9 women, 5 men) had a statistically significant altered gut microbiomes while the other 15 (12 women, 3 men) had microbiomes that were essentially indistinguishable from the healthy controls. These differences between groups were not correlated with age, IBS subtype, medication usage, stress, anxiety, depression or catastrophizing. There was some association between history of early life adversity and length of time with IBS and the microbiome alterations in the first group.  Neurological changes in relation to the healthy control group were found in both subgroups of the volunteers with IBS, but were more pronounced and extensive in the group with the microbiome changes.

It should be emphasized that this was a preliminary, exploratory study of a relatively small sample group, and while many details of the findings appeared to the researchers to be consistent with past studies on IBS , some aspects were more surprising, and many unknowns remain, including the causes of these alterations in these individuals with IBS. However, it is hoped that in time, with further research, IBS investigators will be able to identify consistent microbiome patterns in particular subgroups of IBS that will aid in diagnosis and determination of the optimal treatments for  specific individuals.

IBS Impact looks forward to following the progress of research in this aspect of IBS and hopes to report on more advances in the months and years to come.