Nearly 40% of Adults Suffer From a Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder


In an international survey, investigators discover women are more likely to suffer from a FGID than men.

Magnus Simren, MD, PhD

Magnus Simren, MD, PhD

A substantial number of people worldwide are suffering from a functional gastrointestinal disorder (GFID), according to a new survey.

A team, led by Magnus Simrén, MD, PhD, Professor of Gastroenterology at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, found nearly 40% of adults suffer from a functional gastrointestinal disorder in a 73,000 person, 33 country survey.

Functional gastrointestinal disorders represent a series of chronic disorders in the gastrointestinal tract that often include severe symptoms, including heartburn, acid reflux, and dyspepsia in the upper gastrointestinal tract and chronic constipation, abdominal distention or bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome in the lower gastrointestinal tract.

However, there is currently not a clear understanding as to why these symptoms occur.

The survey included questions based on the diagnostic criteria for irritable bowel syndrome and other functional gastrointestinal disorders, as well as questions on other disease and symptoms, living conditions, quality of life, and healthcare consumption.

The investigators discovered women were more likely to suffer from a FGID than men, despite representing approximately the same percentage of the study population. Overall, 49% of women and 37% of men met the diagnostic criteria of at least 1 functional gastrointestinal disorder.

The team also found the disorders are significantly linked to lower levels of quality of life, but the severity of the disorders ranged from mild discomfort to symptoms that severely impacted quality of life to a high degree.

Another discovery was that the prevalence of disease is strongly associated to a high consumption of healthcare, including doctor visits, medication usage, and surgery.

For the majority of countries, the investigators used web-based questionnaires. However, in some countries the respondents were asked to reply to the questions after an interviewer read them out loud.

There were 2 countries that used both methods.

The investigators found people underreported symptoms when they gave the interview in person as opposed to anonymously online.

"We don't know why we're seeing this difference, but one reason might be that people think it's embarrassing to talk about stomach and bowel symptoms to someone sitting in front of them, and that they therefore underreport them compared with those who give their responses anonymously on an online form," Simrén said.

Recently, researchers found certain foods can raise an individual’s risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease, including French fries, cookies, and cheese.

A team, led by Moon K. Han, PhD, MPH, MSc, Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Center for Diagnostics and Therapeutics, Center for Inflammation, Immunity and Infection, Digestive Disease Research Group, Georgia State University, conducted a secondary analysis of the National Health Interview Survey 2015 to characterize the estimated US adults with IBD with their food intake and consumption frequency.

The sample adult survey included 33,672 participants who were non-institutionalized adults between 18-85 years old.

The team found French fries were consumed by a greater number of people with IBD. They also found individuals with the disease drank less 100% fruit juice and ate more cheese and cookies than the general population.

Overall, intake of French fries (OR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.14—2.25) and sports and energy drinks (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.07–1.97) and more frequent drinking of regular soda were significantly associated with the likelihood of having inflammatory bowel disease.

On the other hand, those who eat popcorn (OR, 0.73; 95% CI, 5.48-0.971) and drink milk (OR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0497-0.998) had smaller odds of developing IBD when adjusting for covariates.

The study, “Worldwide Prevalence and Burden of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Results of Rome Foundation Global Study,” was published online in Gastroenterology.

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