ECU calling for trial participants with irritable bowel syndrome

Tina Yan
Tina Yan

Participants are sought for a new Edith Cowan University (ECU) study investigating whether fibre can improve gut health, mental wellbeing and sleep for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Recent research has shown that the gut plays a key role in human metabolism, sleep and mental health via the gut-brain axis.

One in five Australians experience the symptoms of IBS at one time or another. Globally, the condition affects 11 per cent of adults, with 40 per cent of these having an associated mental health issue, such as depression and anxiety, and 33 per cent reporting sleep problems. 

IBS also has economic and social impacts in absenteeism, medication and treatment costs as well as reducing sufferers’ quality of life.

The study, led by PhD candidate Tina Yan from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, aims to evaluate the effects of the supplement Fibre-fix (a combination of dietary fibre) on gut health, sleep, quality of life and mental health of IBS sufferers on a low FODMAP diet.

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.  These food compounds are poorly absorbed in the small intestine of some people, which causes the symptoms of IBS. 

People with IBS have an oversensitive gut, which causes many digestive symptoms such as recurrent stomach pain, bloating, flatulence, constipation and diarrhoea,” Ms Yan said.

“One solution to IBS is a low FODMAP diet, which can help control IBS symptoms.

“Despite symptom relief, emerging evidence suggests that a low FODMAP diet may affect gut health negatively in the long term,” Ms Yan said.

“Our research aims to determine how to maintain a low level of IBS symptoms, but improve the gut environment by introducing a new dietary supplement.

“Study volunteers who have IBS will take Fibre-Fix, the study supplement, to see if they can improve their gut microbiota, sleep and mental health without increasing their IBS symptoms.” 

The study will involve 62 people with IBS who are on a low FODMAP diet.  Participants will be provided with either Fibre-fix or a control fibre supplement. Before and after the three-week intervention, subjects in both groups will be asked to provide stool and blood samples, complete a three-day diet record, and questionnaires relating to sleep, depression, anxiety and IBS symptoms. 

During the study participants will wear a wristband sleep tracker and complete a bowel symptom checklist. 

It may sound like a lot, but a participant in the first study said it was an easy and rewarding experience:

“The study wasn’t hard and it made me think about my diet, my sleep and how I feel about things. The study regime was pretty straightforward, user friendly and taking the supplement was easy – it tastes great.

“I really wanted to do the study as I want to help solve this problem and it was good to know that ECU is working towards something that helps other people with IBS. I feel I am making a difference,” she said.

ECU researchers have published the protocol of this study in BMJ Open Gastroenterology, a research first for Australia with Fibre-Fix.

To express your interest in the study and find out more, please visit ECU website: