European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology

, Volume 267, Issue 7, pp 1081–1087

Olfactory and gustatory function in irritable bowel syndrome

  • Silke Steinbach
  • Wolfgang Reindl
  • Claudia Kessel
  • Roland Ott
  • Thomas Zahnert
  • Walter Hundt
  • Petra Heinrich
  • Dieter Saur
  • Wolfgang Huber


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common, functional disorder diagnosed by gastroenterologists. It is still unclear whether IBS has a central etiology, e.g., hyperreactivity of the brain, or a peripheral etiology, e.g., stimulation of olfactory/gustatory receptors on enterochromaffin cells, followed by serotonin release and changed gut motility. Testing the odor identification (ID), odor discrimination (DIS) and odor threshold (THR) as well as the total taste and the taste qualities “sweet”, “sour”, “salty” and “bitter” should be of help for determining the etiology. To our knowledge, this is the first study investigating the olfactory/gustatory function in IBS patients. The olfactory/gustatory function of 43 patients (32 women, 11 men) suffering from IBS as defined by the ROME III criteria was investigated by means of validated tests (Sniffin’ Sticks and taste strips). Compared to normative data, scores of THR were decreased and scores of ID and DIS were increased in IBS patients. Additionally, when compared to normative data, there was no difference in the taste function of IBS patients. Assuming that THR reflects more the peripheral olfactory function, whereas ID and DIS are influenced by central activity, and that taste did not differ in IBS patients compared to normative data, this supports the idea of a central etiology of IBS.


Irritable bowel syndrome Olfaction Taste 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silke Steinbach
    • 1
  • Wolfgang Reindl
    • 2
  • Claudia Kessel
    • 2
  • Roland Ott
    • 3
  • Thomas Zahnert
    • 4
  • Walter Hundt
    • 5
  • Petra Heinrich
    • 6
  • Dieter Saur
    • 2
  • Wolfgang Huber
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of OtorhinolaryngologyPhilipps UniversityMarburgGermany
  2. 2.II Medizinische Klinik (Department of Gastroenterology), Klinikum rechts der IsarTechnische Universitaet MuenchenMunichGermany
  3. 3.Gastroenterology BogenhausenMunichGermany
  4. 4.Department of OtorhinolaryngologyTechnical UniversityDresdenGermany
  5. 5.Department of RadiologyPhilipps UniversityMarburgGermany
  6. 6.Institut für medizinische Statistik und Epidemiologie (Department of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology), Klinikum rechts der IsarTechnische Universitaet MuenchenMunichGermany

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