In three separate studies, researchers at The University of Nottingham examined the condition in detail and uncovered a novel way of investigating the illness, which could have major implications in how it is both diagnosed and treated in the future.

The research examined the effectiveness of using Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the colon, which has a number of unique advantages.

Previously, doctors have relied on x-rays to view the colon, which has limitations due to the risks associated with radiation.

By using MRI as an alternative, the researchers have been able to image the bowel continuously with no risk to the patient, enabling them to learn more about the inner workings of the gut.

In the first study, scientists studied people with accelerated transit, and found that the colon size was rather similar to those with normal transit — suggesting people regulate their bowel habit to keep the colonic size constant.

In the second study, scientists used MRI to measure the actual time it takes for contents to transit the bowel, using specially designed MRI visible markers which subjects ingest.

In the third study, researchers used the colonic imaging technique again but this time to improve their understanding of the causes of IBS.

By looking at fructose, a sugar commonly found in fruit, and fructans, which are polymers of fructose, researchers were able to see what effects these had on the gut of healthy volunteers.

"We already know that fructose is difficult to absorb but the novelty with this new method is that we are now able to image the end effect of this mal-absorption, which is the distension of the small intestine and colon. We are currently repeating these studies in patients with IBS to see whether their symptoms correlate with the distension of the colon," said Professor Robin Spiller.


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