Background: Functional gastrointestinal symptoms are often felt to be related to the use of alcohol, coffee and smoking.
Methods: A random sample of 500 adults was interviewed by telephone about their gastrointestinal symptoms and the use of alcohol, coffee and smoking. Dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were defined using common, internationally used criteria.
Results: Of those invited, 85.4% agreed to participate (43.5% male). Of the participants 21.4% had gastrointestinal symptoms >6 times/last year, 13.8% had dyspepsia, and 5.8% had IBS, the latter being more common among women. Of the men, 83.9% reported alcohol consumption, 92.0% drank coffee, and 52.2% smoked. Of the women 62.4% drank alcohol, 88.1% drank coffee and 29.8% smoked. Use of alcohol or coffee was not related to dyspepsia. Current smokers had a 2.3-fold increased risk (P=0.02) and former smokers a 2.7 increased risk (P=0.009) for dyspepsia compared to never smokers. No association between IBS and use of alcohol, coffee or smoking could be demonstrated.
Conclusions: The prevalence of dyspepsia (13.8%) and of IBS (5.8%) in a general Dutch adult population appears to be lower than are reported in other countries. Use of alcohol and coffee was not associated with functional bowel symptoms. Former and current smoking were strongly related to dyspepsia.