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In the United States, women are twice as likely as men to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition to abdominal pain or discomfort and altered bowel habits, which are the characteristic symptoms of IBS, women with IBS often report other gastrointestinal (GI) and non-GI symptoms. Bloating, one of the most commonly reported symptoms, is often described as one of the more distressing symptoms associated with IBS. Researchers are uncertain, however, whether bloating in women with IBS is related to their menstrual cycles.
As reported in the January 2004 issue of Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Margaret M. Heitkemper, PhD, FAAN, and colleagues examined the relationship between bloating and other symptoms (GI and menstrual) in 195 women with IBS. Patients recorded their symptoms using daily diaries and retrospective analysis. Of the 195 women, 75% reported that they often feel bloated and distended. Across-women analyses of both the retrospective and the daily diary data showed that bloating was most commonly associated with constipation, abdominal pain, and intestinal gas. Within-woman analyses showed a strong association between bloating and abdominal pain and intestinal gas, but a weak association between bloating and constipation. When perimenses days were included in the analyses, bloating was strongly associated with uterine cramping and breast tenderness.
The authors concluded that the relationships between bloating and other GI symptoms have particular relevance during the perimenses phase.