Theories behind the effect of starch‑ and sucrose‑reduced diets on gastrointestinal symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome (Review)
Affiliations: Department of Internal Medicine, Lund University, Skåne University Hospital, 20502 Malmö, Sweden
- Published online on: August 16, 2021 https://doi.org/10.3892/mmr.2021.12372
Copyright: © Ohlsson
et al. This is an open access article distributed under the
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Increased amounts of starch and sugar have been added to the diet in the Western world during the last decades. Undigested carbohydrates lead to bacterial fermentation and gas production with diffusion of water, causing abdominal bloating, pain and diarrhea. Therefore, dietary advice is the first line of treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disease characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits without any organic findings. Recently, a diet with a reduction of starch and sucrose led to a marked effect on gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. The mechanism is unknown, but three possible mechanisms are presented in the present review. First, functional variants of the enzyme sucrase‑isomaltase (SI) have been described in IBS. A subgroup of patients with IBS may thus suffer from partial SI deficiency with reduced digestion of starch and sucrose. Second, fructose absorption is less efficient than glucose absorption, which may lead to a physiological fructose malabsorption when ingesting high amounts of sucrose. A third mechanism is that high‑sugar diets causing hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia and weight gain have led to painful neuropathy in animal models; whereas, improved metabolic control in humans has led to improvement of neuropathy. Starch‑ and sucrose‑reduced diets lead to decreased levels of C‑peptide, insulin, gastric inhibitory peptide, leptin and weight reduction. These metabolic changes may reduce the excitability of the hypersensitive nervous system often found in IBS and, thereby, lead to the reduced symptoms found after the diet. In conclusion, further studies are needed to investigate the pathophysiology behind development of symptoms after starch and sucrose intake, and the mechanisms behind symptom relief after reduced intake.