Symptoms and dietary practices of irritable bowel syndrome patients compared to controls: results of a United States National survey

Pauls RN1, Max JB2. Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol. 2018 Oct 2. doi: 10.23736/S1121-421X.18.02518-7. [Epub ahead of print]

Author information

1 Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, TriHealth, Cincinnati, OH, USA - Rachel_Pauls@trihealth.com.

2 TriHealth Digestive Institute, Cincinnati, OH, USA.


BACKGROUND: Little is known regarding the dietary behaviors and epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients in the United States (US).

METHODS: This was an IRB-approved cross-sectional survey conducted via a secured online server (SurveyMonkey®). A representative sample of the US population were queried regarding demographics, gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, treatments and dietary practices. Of 1,718 respondents, 161 reported IBS. These were compared to 1,116 subjects reporting no GI diagnosis (controls).

RESULTS: Overall, 9% reported a diagnosis of IBS. When compared to controls, IBS patients were more likely over 45 years (p<0.001) and female (p<0.001). IBS patients more frequently noted abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, gas/bloating and GERD/heartburn (all p<0.001) than controls. Regarding therapeutic measures, IBS patients were more likely to cite food avoidance, over-the-counter remedies, probiotics, consultation with doctor/dietitian, and prescriptions (all p<0.001). However, they were less likely to believe their strategies were effective. While the majority of subjects believed food contributed to their symptoms, those with IBS listed more dietary triggers. IBS patients were more likely to follow a dietary 'plan' with 21% citing lactose-free, 17% gluten-free and 9% low-FODMAP (all p<0.001). Nevertheless, 47% with IBS denied following any dietary plans. A minority, (24%), of IBS patients was aware of the low- FODMAP diet.

CONCLUSIONS: In this US survey, IBS was reported by 9% of the population, most often females over 45 years. IBS patients were more likely to implement therapeutic strategies and cite food triggers, yet few were aware of the low-FODMAP diet. Outreach programs could improve awareness of this substantiated intervention.

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