Does IBS run in your family? I always ask my IBS clients if their parents have ongoing gut issues, or if anything runs in the family to understand the family picture.

It’s likely that someone else in your family also has IBS. In one study IBS prevalence was 17% in patients’ relatives versus 7% in spouses’ relatives 

Influence of genes on IBS in families

IBS could be down to the genes we inherit from our parents. It’s thought genes are the factor in about 1-20% of IBS symptoms

Our genetic make up can predict your personality, immunity, and neurobiology which all impact your digestion.

If you have IBS, it doesn’t mean that your children will definitely have it, whereas some genetic diseases are always passed down generations.

Parents may pass on genes associated with IBS, but these are not predictive of getting symptoms. IBS is a complex genetic disease, which means there is no clear line between heritability and symptoms.

Some genes have been identified as linked to IBS.

For example a genetic mutation, known as a polymorphism, which affects the way serotonin is transported around your body (5HTT-LPR) has been linked to a slower digestion.

Environment is important. This includes if you’ve had exposure to trauma, your stress levels, the way you eat and live.

Family environment role in IBS

We learn how to eat from our families, so it’s no wonder we can have the same habits (healthy or unhealthy) as our siblings and parents. If IBS runs in your family think about these areas which can affect our digestive health:

  • Food preference in the home – what do you eat
  • The quality of food (how many vegetables you eat, whether you home cook or not)
  • Timing of meals – when you typically eat meals
  • Gut microbes – we can share bacteria with our family and pets
  • Mood disorders – anxiety or depression can run in the family and affect digestion via the gut-brain axis
  • Exposure to stress, trauma or abuse

If IBS runs in your family it’s probably down to a range of factors rather than one gene.