Risk factors for chronic diarrhoea in the community in the absence of irritable bowel syndrome

J. Y. Chang, G. Richard Locke, C. D. Schleck, A. R. Zinsmeister, N. J. Talley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In contrast to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the prevalence and risk factors for diarrhoea in the absence of IBS in the community are unknown. We aimed to evaluate potential risk factors for chronic diarrhoea (non-IBS). A valid questionnaire that recorded gastrointestinal symptoms required for a diagnosis of chronic diarrhoea, self-reported measures of potential risk factors, and a somatic symptom checklist was mailed to an age- and gender-stratified random sample of Olmsted County, Minnesota residents (30-64 year). Chronic diarrhoea was defined as reporting one or more of the following symptoms more than 25% of the time in the past 3 months: ≥3 bowel movements a day, loose or watery stools, or faecal urgency. Subjects with IBS (Rome III) were excluded. Of 892 eligible subjects, 653 (73%) responded. Among 523 respondents not reporting IBS, chronic diarrhoea was reported by 148 (28%); 90 (61%) had chronic painless diarrhoea. Chronic diarrhoea was significantly associated with self-reported food sensitivity (OR = 2.05 [1.31-3.20]) and stress (OR = 1.99 [1.03-3.85]). Both remained significant in the adjusted variable models that excluded subjects with any abdominal pain. Female gender (OR = 0.67 [0.45-0.98]) and higher education level (OR = 0.60 [0.39-0.92]) had smaller odds for chronic diarrhoea. No association was detected for age, marital status, body mass index, cigarette or alcohol use, coffee, analgesics, emotional support, pets or water source. Chronic diarrhoea in the absence of IBS is common; self-reported food sensitivity, male gender and a lower level of education are risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1060-1067+e87
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Chronic
  • Diarrheoa
  • Food sensitivity
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Gastroenterology


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