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Anxiety Raises Irritable Bowel Syndrome Risk After Illness

After bout of gastroenteritis, patients with anxiety and stress more likely to have irritable bowel symptoms at six months

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with high stress and anxiety levels who don't rest during a bout of acute gastroenteritis seem to be more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome than those who have less stress, according to a prospective study in the August issue of the journal Gut.

Meagan J. Spence of the University of Auckland in New Zealand and a colleague conducted a prospective cohort study of 620 patients with Campylobacter gastroenteritis. The patients were surveyed about personality factors, beliefs and behaviors regarding their illness, and then completed follow-up questionnaires at three and six months post-infection to determine if they met Rome criteria for irritable bowel syndrome.

Forty-nine participants met criteria for irritable bowel syndrome. Those who developed irritable bowel syndrome had significantly higher levels of stress, anxiety, somatization, and negative beliefs about illness than those who did not develop the syndrome. In addition, patients who developed irritable bowel syndrome were less likely to have rested and more likely to have remained active during the acute illness (all-or-nothing behavior).

"The current study suggests that this biological event may interact with a range of psychological variables in causing the onset of irritable bowel syndrome," write the authors. "Gastroenteritis may trigger the symptoms, but cognitions, behavior and emotions may help to prolong and maintain them over time."

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