The holidays bring family and friends together for sumptuous feasts that make stomachs groan. For people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), however, even small meals can have extremely distressing consequences. The condition causes abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
Of unknown cause, IBS is the most frequently diagnosed gastrointestinal ailment in the United States. It affects up to 35 million people here. Physicians often arrive at a diagnosis by ruling out other ailments, such as intestinal blockage, colon cancer, and thyroid problems.
Treatments, ranging from Chinese herbs to antidepressants, have been largely limited to symptomatic relief. Now, researchers report that antibiotics knock out—at least temporarily—many of the bacteria that seem to be responsible for this condition.
The finding builds on earlier research suggesting a role in IBS for bacteria. In 1997, for instance, scientists in Bombay found that p