BACKGROUND Bloating is common, but its significance as a marker of underlying disease has not been defined. AND AIMS: We report on risk factors for bloating, its relationship to physical activity and quality of life (QOL), and its predictive value for functional bowel disorders.
This is a cross-sectional population-based study of 1,069 employees of the Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System. The validated Bowel Disease Questionnaire was used to identify subjects with abdominal bloating and other bowel disorders. The association of bloating with QOL was assessed using the SF36 (Short-Form 36) questionnaire. Physical activity was assessed using the modified Baecke questionnaire.
The response rate was 72% (723 of 1,069). Bloating was reported by 21% of all subjects (95% confidence interval [CI] 17.7-23.7), 64% with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), 35% with non-IBS constipation, 23% with non-IBS diarrhea, and 42% with dyspepsia. Functional bloating (i.e., bloating in the absence of other bowel disorders) was reported by 7% of subjects (95% CI 5.2-9.0). Of those with bloating, 28% had IBS, 25% non-IBS constipation, 8% non-IBS diarrhea, and 30% dyspepsia. The positive and negative predictive values of bloating in the diagnosis of functional bowel disorder were 66% and 87%, respectively. The only risk factors were smoking and high-dose aspirin. Bloating was not associated with physical activity. QOL on all subscales of SF36 was lower in subjects with bloating than those without bloating.
Bloating is a common symptom in otherwise healthy adults, and is often associated with but not predictive of functional bowel disorders. Smoking and high-dose aspirin are associated with bloating while physical activity is not.