"OVER-the-counter pills which are usually used to counter jet lag may be a magic potion for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).While researching IBS, doctors here stumbled on the discovery that melatonin may be the key to help thousands of people who suffer from the disease.IBS hits both young and old, and doctors estimate about 10 per cent of Singaporeans suffer from it.Victims complain of abdominal pain and experience frequent diarrhoea or constipation, which can be triggered by eating certain foods or even stress.Associate Professor Ho Khek Yu of the National University of Singapore (NUS) department of medicine, who is also a consultant gastroenterologist at the National University Hospital, said as many as half of all patients who seek treatment of such symptoms suffer from IBS.Anecdotally, he found many of his IBS patients complained of poor sleep as well.So he set out to find a link by measuring the amount of melatonin - a substance produced by the pineal gland in the brain, which gets people to sleep - produced by those who suffer from IBS.The result: Those with the disease secreted less melatonin in their saliva.The next step was to make sure it was melatonin levels, rather than amount of sleep, that made a difference to patients.Prof Ho hooked up several volunteers to machines and sensors at night to measure the amount and quality of sleep they got before and after a round of melatonin treatment.What happened next came as a surprise.Prof Ho, who worked with Mr Song Guanghui, a PhD student at NUS, found that, although volunteers' sleep patterns remained the same with or without melatonin, patients who received even small amounts of the hormone experienced less abdominal pain and diarrhoea.This meant the researchers had proved a commonly held hypothesis in the scientific world - that there is a connection between the brain and the bowel.Said Prof Ho: 'The prevailing theory is that an IBS patient has very sensitive nerve endings in the intestines, so he feels more pain.'There is a very complicated relationship between the intestines and the brain. Some call the bowel the second brain, because there are so many hormones produced by the brain that are received by the gut, and vice versa.'The discovery is an important one in science, and Prof Ho will present his findings at a European scientific conference next month.It is even more important for patients, who may have found a cheap, over-the-counter cure for their affliction, thanks to Prof Ho's work.Research is ongoing to measure stress levels and their relationship to IBS.This time, Prof Ho and his team are working with neurology diagnostic specialists at the Singapore General Hospital.They will compare brain scans of IBS patients and healthy volunteers to see how their brains react to stimuli to the gut and medication.Prof Ho explained: 'If the theory works, whatever treatment we administer can be targeted at the exact cause of IBS, even if it resides in the brain.'Eventually, it will mean better drugs that will solve the problem, instead of the current situation where doctors are frequently frustrated because we cannot really help the patient, but can only treat the symptoms.' " http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/techscien...,269047,00.html Another one??Anyone try melatonin?