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Genes linked to people’s bowel habits

How often you need to go to the toilet is genetically determined
08 August 2016

How often you need to go to the toilet is partly genetically determined: a ‘normal’ frequency for most people lies between 8-72 hours. This is not an easy subject to discuss for many people. But it is an important one and your bowel movements indicate how healthy you are. It is important to note any change in your frequency and pattern that cannot be explained by a change in diet or travelling, for example. Such a change is a good reason to see your GP or doctor.

A new paper in the scientific journal Gut sheds light on the role of certain genes in determining how people differ in their bowel habits. The study analyzes two population-based cohorts from the Netherlands (LifeLines-Deep) and Sweden (PopCol). It results from an international collaboration led by Dr. Alexandra Zhernakova ( University Medical Centre Groningen , Groningen, the Netherlands) and Dr. Mauro D’Amato (Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden). They studied the genetic make-up of people who kept daily records of their bowel movements over a 1-2 week period, and identified genes that are associated with more and less frequent bowel movement rates. Intriguingly, many of these genes also appear to be involved in controlling the body’s response to foreign substances (xenobiotics, for example, substances in foods and drugs that are foreign to the body) and in the electrical stimulation of nerves and muscles that wire up human organs like the brain, heart and bowels. The body’s electrical wiring works through ion channels.

The authors’ findings are in line with previous reports that found ion channel mutations in 2% of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (a poorly understood condition that affects millions of patients worldwide and is characterized by bowel abnormalities). They highlight the potential for translational medicine that can be gained by studying people from general populations.

See also press release from Karolinska Institutet

Article reference: A GWAS meta-analysis suggests roles for xenobiotic metabolism and ion channel activity in the biology of stool frequency Jankipersadsing SA, Hadizadeh F, Bonder MJ, Tigchelaar EF, Deelen P, Fu J, Andreasson A, Agreus L, Walter S, Wijmenga C, Hysi P, D'Amato M, Zhernakova A. Gut. 2016 Jul 29. pii: gutjnl-2016-312398. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-312398. , Gut, 29 July 2016, full text

More information on LifeLines:

More information about the UMCG systems genetics collaboration and the genetics department


Last modified:31 August 2016 4.20 p.m.
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