Gastrointestinal Problems Linked to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)

Gastrointestinal Problems Linked to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, or EDS, is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissues. These tissues support and structure various organs and systems, such as the skin, joints, and blood vessels. Individuals with EDS often experience hypermobility, meaning their joints are more flexible and prone to dislocation.

The condition can also affect other systems, including the cardiovascular system (more on this here) and gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Treating the gastrointestinal tract is critical to preventing complications.

How Does EDS Affect the Gastrointestinal System?

The digestive tract comprises connective tissues that are critical to the movements needed for digestion. The connective tissue abnormalities linked to EDS can affect the nerves of the digestive tract and make the gut more vulnerable to GI problems.

Weakened connective tissues in individuals with EDS can affect the structure and function of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to various symptoms and complications like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The weakened connective tissues can also affect the lower esophageal sphincter, which prevents stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. As a result, individuals with EDS may experience frequent heartburn, regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing.

There is also a risk that EDS can increase the risk of developing gastrointestinal (GI) complications such as hernias, diverticulosis, and intestinal perforation. The weakened connective tissues can make the walls of the digestive organs more susceptible to damage and structural abnormalities. These complications can cause additional symptoms and require medical intervention. Common GI issues include:

  1. Heartburn
  2. Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)
  3. Hiatal hernia
  4. Dysmotility (more below)
  5. Bloating
  6. Constipation
  7. Rectal and genital prolapse
  8. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  9. Peptic ulcers
  10. Bowel perforations

Because EDS can negatively affect the gastrointestinal system, leading to issues such as malabsorption or difficulty eating, which can lead to excessive weight loss among individuals with EDS. It is vital for individuals with EDS who are experiencing weight loss to consult with their healthcare provider.

A thorough evaluation can help determine the underlying cause of the weight loss and guide appropriate treatment. This may involve addressing gastrointestinal issues, ensuring adequate nutrient intake, and managing other symptoms or complications associated with EDS.

Dysmotility, Gut-Brain Interactions, and EDS

Integrative medicine offers a holistic approach to addressing gastrointestinal symptoms in individuals with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). However, finding the right balance of treatments can be complex and, therefore, should only be tried with a physician’s oversight. Patients with EDS should always consult experienced healthcare professionals familiar with EDS and GI health.

For instance, EDS is associated with functional GI disorders known as Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction (DGBI), which cause dysmotility and GI symptoms. It happens when communication breakdown between the brain and the gut causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

Dysmotility causes abnormal movement or function of the muscles in the digestive tract. This can affect any part of the digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.

  1. Esophageal dysmotility affects the movement of food from the mouth to the stomach. This can result in symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, regurgitation, and chest pain.
  2. Gastroparesis is characterized by delayed emptying of the stomach. This can lead to nausea, vomiting, and feeling full quickly after eating.
  3. Intestinal dysmotility causes abnormal movement of the intestines. The weakened connective tissues can affect the muscles and nerves responsible for coordinating the contractions that move food through the digestive system. This can result in symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Personalized Nutrition for EDS

Personalized nutrition and dietary modifications help maintain gut health and prevent complications related to EDS. This may involve eliminating foods that exacerbate gastrointestinal symptoms and incorporating nutrient-rich options supporting gut health. However, though you may be tempted to try a new diet, supplement, or popular complementary therapy, it is essential to only do so with advice from your physician. Self-help is not recommended for EDS and GI problems.

Collaboration with healthcare providers enables a measured approach to testing and treating gastrointestinal symptoms while ensuring coordinated care. An experienced physician will carefully assess medications and potential interactions with foods and dietary supplements. Some well-meaning therapies may interact with drugs or exacerbate GI symptoms.

If you live in Orange County or Los Angeles and are experiencing gut health issues related to EDS or another chronic illness, don’t hesitate to contact our clinic to inquire about becoming a patient.