Functional Dyspepsia Linked with Early-Life Stress

Pharmacy Times, September 2016 Men's Health, Volume 82, Issue 9

Although a complete understanding of functional dyspepsia continues to elude health care professionals, the results of a recent study suggest that patients who experience traumatic events early in life may be more susceptible to the gastrointestinal condition.

Although a complete understanding of functional dyspepsia (FD), also known as indigestion with no clear origin, continues to elude health care professionals, the results of a recent study suggest that patients who experience traumatic events early in life may be more susceptible to the gastrointestinal (GI) condition.

The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, induced inflammation in the colons of 10-day-old rats. After 6 to 8 weeks of evaluating the rats for stomach hypersensitivity and anxiety-like behavior, the research team found that colon inflammation increased the levels of tyrosine hydroxylase, a protein that makes the stress hormone norepinephrine, in the nerves in the upper abdomen.

Based these findings, as well as on the results of previous research in which inducing inflammation in the colons of neonatal rats led to the rats developing gut sensitivity as adults, the researchers concluded that the increased levels of norepinephrine released as a reaction to early-life stress could contribute to FD and anxiety later in life.

“Our findings extend the clinical observations that adverse early-life experiences are risk factors for the development of FD symptoms,” said lead author Sushil Sarna, PhD, in a press release.

The study authors noted that while anxiety is known to exacerbate FD symptoms, it remains uncertain whether it is ultimately a cause or an effect of the GI condition. In future studies, they plan to further investigate the link between FD, anxiety, and early-life stress.