If you’ve ever suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, you know that it is not a pleasant experience. Even worse, it can be challenging to diagnose. Most people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome would do almost anything to get rid of the symptoms. Researchers now reveal a new way to treat irritable bowel syndrome: spider venom.
This therapy is not going to turn you into a Spider-Man, but you could feel so much better you would think after receiving this particular spider venom. Keep reading to find out what researchers now know about this atypical treatment.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the large intestine. It’s quite common but quite uncomfortable. There is technically no cure. It’s a chronic condition that can arise many times throughout a person’s life.
The good news is that it’s not known to cause colorectal cancer. This diagnosis is a little bit of relief for a person with chronic IBS. When you suffer from this condition, you’ll welcome any bit of comfort you can get. However, if left untreated, it can get severe and possibly even be life-threatening.
If you do have any damage to the tissues in your large intestine, it’s probably something more severe than IBS. Your doctor can examine you to tell you more.
Types of IBS
There are two types of IBS, and both have similar symptoms. The difference is the location of the afflicted areas.
- Ulcerative colitis is when you get inflammation and ulcers in the lining of your rectum and colon (large intestine). It’s estimated that 750,000 people in the United States have ulcerative colitis. It takes time for this condition to develop. Although you’ll never be completely cured of it, it can go into long-term remission with treatment and lifestyle changes.
- Crohn’s disease is an inflammation of the digestive tract. It can affect deep layers of tissue. This version is also incurable but can go into long-term remission with treatment and lifestyle changes. It may have a few additional symptoms that are different from ulcerative colitis: inflammation of the eyes, skin, joints, liver, and bile ducts. However, this usually occurs if it’s allowed to get to a point where it’s severe.
Symptoms of IBS
There is a bit of good news and bad news about the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The good news is that the symptoms alone are relatively harmless (albeit uncomfortable). The bad news is that the discomfort can be so severe that you might feel like it’s going to kill you.
IBS is most often characterized by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, mucus in stool, and gas. This ailment may be accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, or both. Essentially, any strange and sudden change in your bowel movements is an indicator of IBS.
If you experience more severe symptoms such as weight loss, rectal bleeding, vomiting, or nausea, these symptoms indicate something else. It could be colon cancer, so see your doctor right away.
Gastroenterologists don’t have a specific test for irritable bowel symptoms. They generally go by the symptoms you experience. Your gastroenterologist may do tests to rule out other issues before concluding that you have IBS.
The biggest clue is that the pain you experience connects to your bowel movements. Most people with IBS notice that the problem goes away shortly after the bowel movement has been completed. Other significant clues are that your stools look different, or you have a change in the frequency of your bowel movements.
Time is another clue that the gastroenterologist may use. They generally check to see if you’ve had the issues at least once a week for the last three months and if you’ve had symptoms for at least six months.
Additional Information About IBS
The cause of IBS is unknown. However, researchers have identified a few speculated risk factors. One is genetics. If you have a family history of IBS, you’re more likely to develop it.
IBS develops in young people under the age of 50. Women are more prone to IBS than men, and people with mental health problems seem to be more inclined to it.
Certain things seem to trigger irritable bowel syndrome in people. Food is the main trigger, which makes sense because IBS is a disorder of the large intestine. Stress can make IBS worse, but researchers don’t believe it causes IBS.
Since doctors don’t know what causes IBS, there aren’t any specific treatments for the disorder. Traditionally doctors treat the symptoms. For example, if you’re constipated, they’ll tell you to take laxatives, but if you have abdomen pain, they may prescribe antispasmodics.
Doctors may also recommend that you change certain lifestyle factors. Eat healthier, exercise more, stop smoking, and take probiotics, improving your gut flora.
*Statistics provided by the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders.
- Between 10 and 15 percent of people worldwide have IBS.
- About 40% of people with IBS have a mild version, 35% have a moderate performance, and 25% have a severe case of IBS.
- IBS is the most common disorder diagnosed by gastroenterologists.
- Women make up from 60 to 65 percent of IBS cases.
Spider Venom as a Pain Treatment?
It may sound bizarre, but recent research done by Professor Richard Lewis from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, and the company has found two peptides in spider venom that could alleviate pain associated with irritable bowel syndroms. Research believes these peptides can relieve pain from many conditions. The study is in the beginning stages, but if it becomes a mainstream treatment, it will revolutionize the way chronic pain is treated.
Why Venom Instead of Pain Medication?
Although there are current pain medications that treat pain associated with IBS, after long-term use, a person can develop a tolerance to the medicine. This scenario won’t happen with the peptide in the spider venom.
Another consideration is that current medications don’t always work ultimately, primarily because of dosage limitations. The effects are only temporary, so pain medications are not an effective way to treat pain. Of course, no one is recommending that you skip pain medication – you still need some relief until something better comes along.
The Peptides in the Venom
The venom of the Bird Eating Tarantula is harmless to humans, typically. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be an option for pain treatment. However, as mentioned before, it’s two peptides in the venom that would be isolated for treatment usage. They are called TAP1A and TAP2A.
The way they work is by inhibiting chronic pain channels in the body. Most chronic pain channels are sodium (NaV) and calcium (CaV) channels. These are known as voltage-gated channels because they use electrical signals to move sodium and calcium into cell membranes. The main channels are:
Think of these channels as radio stations. The peptides in spider venom would act as interference that stops the frequency (chronic pain) to the channels. It would eliminate the problem, and you wouldn’t need pain medications, which can sometimes have severe side effects.
The Spider That the Venom Comes From
The venom in discussion comes from the Venezuelan Pinkfoot Goliath Tarantula. It’s the world’s most massive spider. The two peptides used from the venom are called Tap1a and Tap2a. They effectively inhibit pain receptors in the gut area and do so almost immediately. There is still a lot of research to be done on this spider venom treatment, but it’s showing promising results.
If you’re a spider lover, you’ll find the Pinkfoot Goliath interesting. If not, it may be a nightmare for you.
This gigantic tarantula is sometimes called the Bird Eating Tarantula because it can eat birds or anything that’s smaller than it is. These spiders grow up to 4.75 inches (12 centimeters) with a leg span of up to 11 inches (28 centimeters). Despite the name, the spider is a coffee brown color. However, it does have a bit of pink fur towards the bottom of its legs.
When you say it out loud, using venom from a spider (or any venom for that matter) for IBS sounds ridiculous and dangerous. However, many medications started with bizarre theories and have proven beneficial once the research was done. There is promising evidence that the spider venom treatment could be the next best thing for pain treatment of IBS.
Still under research, this treatment most likely won’t be available any time soon. So for now, you’ll have to continue using pain medication. Check-in with your doctor to learn more about the progress and availability of this therapy as it emerges. Until then, manage your irritable bowel syndrome with specific lifestyle changes can help prevent the disorder from affecting your quality of life. Make sure you have regular appointments with your doctor and take care of yourself so that chronic pain will be the least of your concerns.