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Stomach complaints common among Canadians

IHN logo HAMILTON, CANADA. A team of researchers from McMaster University and Janssen- Ortho Inc. of Canada has just released a major report that details the prevalence of upper gastrointestinal (UGI) symptoms among Canadians. The study involved 1036 adult Canadians selected to reflect the general population in terms of age, sex, marital status, and income. The participants were interviewed to determine how often they experienced UGI symptoms such as heartburn, belching, bloating, nausea, stomach pain, regurgitation, and an excessive feeling of fullness after eating. The participants also completed a self- administered questionnaire aimed at gauging their overall feeling of well-being. Almost 29 per cent reported having had substantial upper GI symptoms within the preceding three months and most of these were of a chronic nature. Only 34.1 per cent of the participants had never experienced any symptoms. Dysmobility symptoms (feeling fullness, nausea, vomiting, regurgitation, belching, bloating, and a general feeling of discomfort in the upper abdomen) were the most common features of chronic GI symptoms (54.9 per cent) with heartburn being next at 42.5 per cent and ulcer-like symptoms at 12.4 per cent.

Chronic UGI symptoms were more common among the poor, the unemployed, the poorly educated, and among people who had recently experienced a stressful event. These symptoms were closely related with a substantially lower level of well-being, sleep disturbance (40 per cent among sufferers versus 2 per cent among non-sufferers), the need to avoid certain foods, and interference with social activities. Overall, the reduction in well-being score was similar to that observed in patients with migraine or mild congestive heart failure. Absenteeism and unrelated health problems were also substantially more frequent among people with chronic GI symptoms. Most UGI symptom sufferers treat themselves with over-the-counter remedies. Unfortunately, most of these medications are designed to alleviate heartburn, but have little or no effect on the more common dysmobility problems. The researchers conclude that upper GI problems are common in Canadians, have a substantial economic impact, and materially impact the well-being of affected individuals. NOTE: This study was funded by Janssen-Ortho Inc. of Canada.
Tougas, Gervais, et al. Prevalence and impact of upper gastrointestinal symptoms in the Canadian population: findings from the DIGEST study. American Journal of Gastroenterology, Vol. 94, October 1999, pp. 2845-54

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