Exercise Eases Digestion Problems in the Obese

Coupled with healthy diet, it reduces stomach pain and diarrhea, study says

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TUESDAY. Oct. 4, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Physical activity and a healthy diet could help obese people reduce gastrointestinal (GI) problems such as stomach pain, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.

That's the conclusion of a new study in the latest issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

The study of 1,801 men and women found that obese people who got some form of physical activity were less likely to suffer GI problems than inactive obese people. The study also found that a high body mass index (BMI) was associated with increased symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Binge eating was associated with increased abdominal pain, constipation and bloating.

"It is well-documented that maintaining a healthy diet and regular physical activity can benefit GI health," study author Rona L. Levy, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a prepared statement.

"Our study is the first to show the benefit of maintaining these healthy habits and staving off the occurrence of GI symptoms in obese people. These findings have future implications for the treatment of both obesity and various GI disorders and symptoms that are more prevalent in this population," Levy said.

The average body weight of Americans has increased by about 10 percent over the past two decades. More than half the U.S. adult population is overweight and nearly one in three adults is obese.

"Potential reduction of GI symptoms is yet another reason for obese people to consider engaging in physical activity. It could mean the difference between leading a normal life or leading one filled with constant discomfort," Levy said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about exercise.

SOURCE: American Gastroenterological Association, news release, Oct. 3, 2005

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