April is IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) awareness month. If you follow me on Facebook or Instragram, I shared my IBS story for IBS awareness month. In this post I also shared that a microadenoma was found on my pituitary gland. This causes the body to produce elevated levels of the hormone prolactin (usually high in pregnant or breastfeeding women). The condition is called hyperprolactenemia. April is also infertility awareness month, and since hyperprolactenemia affects fertility, I figured it would only be appropriate to end the month discussing a study that correlates IBS and hyperprolactenemia.
Hyperprolactenemia causes a variety of symptoms which include frequent headaches, blurred vision, loss of libido, milky discharge from nipples without being pregnant or breastfeeding,fertility issues, an absent menstrual period (in women), and erectile dysfunction (in men)
One of my followers commented that she also had irritable bowel syndrome and had a microadenoma. She was told the microadenoma likely caused her IBS symptoms. I decided to research this for myself.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I’m not writing this post to self-diagnose, and you shouldn’t use the information I share to self-diagnose either. I’m writing to share my personal experience along with some research I found that correlates hyperprolactemia with irritable bowel syrndrome. Do with this information as you wish.
After learning another person experienced symptoms similar to what I experienced, I decided to do some additional research. As of now, only one study from 2011 has been published correlating IBS-C (constipation predominant) with hyperprolactenemia.
In this study, doctors in Greece studied a 16 year old female patient who complained of abdominal pain and constipation. She also experienced amenorrhea (absent menstrual period) due to a macroadenoma (large tumor on the pituitary gland). After her taking cabergoline to treat hyperprolactemia the patient’s symptoms went away.
This study was the first to find a correlation between IBS and elevated prolactin levels. A brain-gut neuropetide known as cholecytokinin (CCK) was also found in higher concentrations in IBS patients. CCK is found in the colon and ileum. It’s also found in the vagus nerve (near the brain stem) and in the celiac plexus (near the heart).
Because CCK is present in several areas of the body, it affects various bodily functions. Physical functions affected by CCK include gallbladder contraction and pancreatic enzyme secretion. CCK also affects motor and sensory functions like gut motility and gastric emptying. A 1983 study found that CCK helps to mediate the gastrocolonic response (Renny e.t. Al 1983).
The study from 2011 suggests a link between CCK and the prolactin releasing peptide (PrRP). CCK administered near PrPR neurons activates them causing high prolactin levels.
For example, a pituitary tumor might block secretion of PrRP. This sends a mixed signal to the brain which causes too much CCK to be produced. he main job of CCK in the colon is to prevent food from being digested too quickly. Since CCK aids in gut motility an overabundance can cause IBS-C.
Elevated prolactin levels are also seen in people with celiac disease and colon cancer. Both cause intestinal inflammation. Even those of us who suffer with IBS have mild inflammation in our intestines. As a result IBS patients have more T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell that protects the body from infection) and mast cells (cells that release histamine and other substances during and inflamatory of allergic reaction). Both T lymphocytes and mast cells are associated with gut-brain communication and IBS. This suggests the possibility of elevated prolactin levels in IBS patients.
Keep in mind, this is a single case study. However, I did find it interesting that other people with IBS, especially IBS-C often have elevated prolactin levels. I don’t know if my IBS and microadenoma are related. If there is a correlation, it wouldn’t surprise me since I’ve dealt with IBS symptoms along with symptoms related to hyper prolactemia for between 15-20 years.
If you suspect that you might have any type of digestive disorder or hormonal imbalance I suggest scheduling an appointment with your primary doctor ASAP. I suffered for years due to not having my pain taken seriously, and not feeling comfortable discussing my symptoms. No one deserves to suffer in silence.
Lastly, if you’ve experienced similar symptoms I’d love to hear your story. What led you to get diagnosed? How long did you suffer before getting answers? Did your IBS symptoms go away after your pituitary tumor was treated?