Our aim was to describe the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal symptoms in a sample of veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to examine the relationship between gastrointestinal symptoms, PTSD severity, depression severity, and number of prior traumatic events reported.
IBS and PTSD can co-occur; yet, little research has focused on describing the gastrointestinal symptoms and prevalence of IBS among veterans with PTSD.
We examined baseline data from a randomized clinical trial of behavioral interventions for veterans with PTSD. Veterans completed questionnaires assessing gastrointestinal symptoms (Gastrointestinal Patient-Reported Outcome Measures Information Systems; PROMIS) and lifetime traumatic events. Multivariable regression analyses were performed to examine associations between gastrointestinal symptoms and the number of prior traumas reported PTSD severity, and depression symptom severity.
One hundred eighty-four veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD were included. Twenty-five percent met the Rome III criteria for IBS. Veterans reported gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal/belly pain (36%), diarrhea (21%), constipation (18%), and bloating/gas (17%). In multivariable analyses, greater PTSD severity was associated with worse constipation (P=0.008), diarrhea (P=0.005), and gas/bloating (P=0.001) when controlling for age and sex. Higher levels of depressive symptoms severity were associated with greater abdominal/belly pain (P=0.04).
Among a sample of veterans with PTSD, rates of IBS and abdominal/belly pain are greater than general US population reference values. Although levels of constipation and bloating/gas are lower than general US population reference values, increased severity of PTSD was associated with increased gastrointestinal symptoms.

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