OBJECTIVES: Previous reports have linked irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) etiologically with various forms of mucosal inflammation, including infectious enterocolitides and inflammatory bowel disease. The mechanism is uncertain but may involve sensitization by inflammatory mediators. The enteropathy of celiac disease has theoretical advantages as a study model because it can be controlled with dietary gluten exclusion; however, whether it also predisposes to functional bowel disorders is unclear. Therefore, we assessed the prevalence of IBS-type symptoms in adult celiac patients and correlated this with dietary compliance with gluten exclusion. METHODS: Adult patients (n = 150; 106 women and 44 men) with confirmed celiac disease were randomly selected from a computerized database of >350 patients, and were asked to complete a bowel questionnaire and the Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36). The control group (n = 162; 133 women and 29 men) had no history of celiac disease and had similar mean age and sex profile. RESULTS: Of 150 celiac patients reviewed, 30 of 150 (20%) fulfilled the Rome criteria compared with eight of 162 (5%) controls. Of the celiac patients 10 of 46 (22%) had partial or no compliance with a gluten-free diet, whereas 20 of 104 patients (19%) adhered to the diet; this difference did not achieve statistical significance. Celiac patients with IBS-type symptoms had a markedly lower quality of life than those without, all eight domains being impaired to a clinically significant extent. Dietary gluten exclusion improved QOL in four of eight scales measured. CONCLUSIONS: The hypothesis that mucosal inflammation in celiac disease may have a sensitizing effect or may predispose to IBS-type symptoms is supported by these results. Failure to attain optimal subjective well-being is common in celiac patients, particularly in those with coexisting IBS. Compliance with a gluten-free diet confers some benefit.
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