Obesity is a chronic disease that has become a major health problem around the world. There has not been much research on the relationship between GI symptoms (including IBS), weight, and weight-related behaviors. Recently, researchers have found that a high body mass index (BMI) and lack of physical activity are associated with an increase in gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
A recent study, published in the October issue of American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, assessed rates of GI symptoms in a sample of obese patients in a weight-loss program and explored relationships among GI symptoms and obesity, binge eating, dieting (fat and fruit/fiber consumption), and physical activity.
For the study, researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, asked a total of 983 participants, with recorded BMI of 33kg/m2 to complete a questionnaire about diet and physical activity and a standardized self-report Rome II questionnaire assessing IBS status and GI symptoms. Study participation was based on eligibility factors, such as age, gender, smoking status, amount of physical activity, BMI and binge eating status. On average, participants in this study were classified as obese.
In the study, BMI was found to be associated positively with abdominal pain and diarrhea whereas healthier diet (lower fat and higher fruit/fiber intake) and higher physical activity were associated with fewer GI symptoms. Although physiologic mechanisms still need to be explored, associations between GI symptoms and diet and exercise behaviors may have implications for the treatment of both obesity and GI symptoms.