Objectives: The authors prospectively examined the association between bowel movement frequency (used as a proxy for intestinal transit), laxative use, and the risk of symptomatic gallstone disease.
Methods: A total of 79,829 women, aged 36-61 yr, without a history of symptomatic gallstone disease and free of cancer, responded to a mailed questionnaire in 1982 that assessed bowel movement frequency and use of laxatives. Between 1984 and 1996, 4,443 incident cases of symptomatic gallstone disease were documented. Relative risks (RRs) of symptomatic gallstone disease and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using logistic regression.
Results: After controlling for age and established risk factors, the multivariate RRs were, compared to women with daily bowel movements, 0.97 (95% CI 0.86-1.08) for women with bowel movements every third day or less, and 1.00 (95% CI 0.91-11.1) for women with bowel movement more than once daily. No trend was evident. As compared to women who never used laxatives in 1982, a significant modest inverse association was seen for monthly laxative use, with a multivariate RR of 0.84 (95% CI 0.72-0.98), and weekly to daily laxative use was associated with a RR of 0.88 (95% CI 0.78-1.02).
Conclusions: These findings do not support an association between infrequent bowel movements and risk of symptomatic gallstone disease in women, and indicate that simple questions directed at bowel movement frequency are unlikely to enhance our ability to predict risk of symptomatic gallstone disease. The slightly inverse association between use of laxatives and risk of symptomatic gallstone disease may be due to a mechanism that is not related to bowel movement frequency.