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Neth J Med. 2008 Jan;66(1):18-22.

Gastrointestinal symptoms are still common in a general Western population.

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Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.



Results from studies conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990 s showed that gastrointestinal symptoms were common among the general population. Meanwhile, lifestyle habits have changed and important treatment options have been introduced. This might have influenced symptom prevalence.


This study aimed to describe the current prevalence of upper and lower gastrointestinal symptoms within the general population. For this purpose, a demographically representative sample of the Dutch population within the city of Nijmegen and surrounding areas was selected after careful comparison with demographic figures from a government demographic database. Participants were invited to fill in a valid self-report questionnaire about gastrointestinal symptoms and prevalence figures were calculated.


A total of 5000 questionnaires was sent and 1616 (32%) were returned. Of these, 839 (52%) subjects reported having had upper (43%) or lower (38%) gastrointestinal symptoms in the past four weeks. The most prevalent individual symptoms reported were flatulence (47%), abdominal rumbling (40%), bloating (37%), alternating solid and loose stools (31%), belching (25%) and postprandial fullness (25%). People who smoked or used a proton pump inhibitor had an increased risk for reporting upper as well as lower gastrointestinal symptoms (OR 1.99; 95% CI 1.56 to 2.55, and OR 1.37; 95% CI 1.01 to 1.75, respectively for smoking; and OR 3.17; 95% CI 2.17 to 4.72, and OR 2.14; 95% CI 1.49 to 3.08, respectively for PPIs).


Both upper and lower gastrointestinal symptoms are very common in a representative sample of a general Western population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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