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Keywords:

  • abdominal pain;
  • functional gut disorders;
  • irritable bowel syndrome;
  • visceral hypersensitivity

General introduction  The concept of visceral hypersensitivity is accepted as being germane to several functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs). The causes or risk factors associated with this hypersensitivity are unclear. This article addresses the proposed mechanisms leading to hypersensitivity: from genetic to inflammatory disorders, from central to peripheral alterations of function. However, in order to place visceral hypersensitivity in a more global perspective as an aetiological factor for FGIDs, it also provides a review of recent evidence regarding the role of other peripheral mechanisms (the intraluminal milieu), as also genetic factors in the pathophysiology of these disorders. The article has been divided into five independent sections. The first three sections summarize the evidence of visceral hypersensitivity as a biological marker of functional gut disorders, the peripheral and central mechanisms involved, and the role of inflammation on hypersensitivity. In opposition to visceral hypersensitivity as an isolated phenomenon in functional gut disorders, the last two sections focus on the importance of peripheral mechanisms, like motor disturbances, specifically those resulting on altered transport of intestinal gas, and alterations of the intraluminal milieu and genetics.