Objective: Gastrointestinal symptoms that occur without evidence of structural gastrointestinal disease are a well-recognized feature of patients with eating disorders (EDs). Despite this, the spectrum and predictors of specific functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs), documented using standardized and validated questionnaires, have received little attention. The aims of the study were to describe the prevalence and type of FGIDs in patients suffering from anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS), and to determine the relationships between psychological features, eating-disordered attitudes and behaviours, demographic characteristics and the type and number of FGIDs present.
Material and methods: A total of 101 consecutive female patients admitted to an eating disorder unit (AN 44%, BN 22%, EDNOS 34%, mean age 21 years) completed the Rome II modular questionnaire and a range of other validated self-reported questionnaires detailing illness history, psychological features and eating and exercise behaviour.
Results: The criteria for at least one FGID were fulfilled by 98% of the sample. The most prevalent FGIDs were irritable bowel syndrome (IBS: 52%), functional heartburn (FH: 51%), functional abdominal bloating (31%), functional constipation (FC: 24%), functional dysphagia (23%) and functional anorectal pain disorder (FAno: 22%); 52% of the sample satisfied the criteria for at least three coexistent FGIDs. Psychological variables (somatization, neuroticism, state and trait anxiety), age and binge eating were significant predictors of specific, and > or =3 coexistent FGIDs. Other disordered eating characteristics, including body mass index, were not predictors.
Conclusions: In patients with EDs, specific psychological traits predict FGID type and the presence of multiple coexistent FGIDs. These findings support the role of specific psychological features as important contributors to certain FGIDs.