Monthly Summaries of Nursing Research: May 2003

May 28, 2003

In This Article

The Menstrual Cycle and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Heitkemper MM, Cain KC, Jarrett ME, Burr RL, Hertig V, Bond EF. Symptoms across the menstrual cycle in women with irritable bowel syndrome. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2003;98:420-430.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the most common bowel disorder in the United States, affects more women than men, and gender differences have been noted in pain sensitivity, nervous arousal, and gastrointestinal symptoms. For some women, IBS symptoms, particularly abdominal cramping, gas, bloating, and stool patterns changes, may relate to oral contraceptive use or menstrual cycle phase. Researchers recruited 149 women with IBS to complete a 5-day symptom diary around the time of their menses. The average age of the women was 32 years, 89% were white, 66% had completed college, 37% were using oral contraceptives, and 56% worked jobs that paid more than $20,000 per year. An initial questionnaire revealed different primary symptom patterns: 41 women reported constipation, 58 reported diarrhea, 46 reported an alternating pattern, and 4 were unclassifiable. Of women with IBS, those on oral contraceptives reported lower severity of cognitive, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Menstrual disturbances, sleep disruption, and cognitive symptoms were strongest in the IBS sufferers with an alternating constipation/diarrhea bowel pattern. Compared with a control group of 42 women with normal gastrointestinal function, all 3 groups of women with IBS reported greater severity of menstrual, somatic, and sleep symptoms.

Abstract

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