Background: Nonerosive gastroesophageal reflux disease (NERD) patients frequently show features of the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Aims: To investigate the prevalence and intensity of bowel symptoms and their relationship to esophageal acid exposure in NERD patients.
Methods: Bowel and reflux symptoms and IBS status were assessed in NERD patients (normal upper endoscopy; esophageal pH <4 for ≥5% of the time on 24-h pH monitoring; n=326), in relation to nonpatient controls. Bowel symptoms were scored on the 3 scales: diarrhea, constipation, and pain/gas symptoms.
Results: NERD and age were independently associated with bowel symptoms. NERD patients scored significantly higher than controls on all bowel scales. In a multivariate analysis, the scores on the pain/gas scale were independently associated with NERD. In NERD patients, reflux symptoms independently predicted the bowel symptoms while acid exposure did not. Forty-nine percent of the NERD patients and 18% of the controls met the criteria for IBS [IBS(+)NERD]. IBS(+)NERD patients scored significantly higher than those not meeting IBS criteria [IBS(−)] on all bowel scales. Yet IBS(−) patients scored significantly higher than controls on the scales of constipation and pain/gas. IBS(+)NERD patients scored higher than IBS(−) also on the GERD symptoms scale.
Conclusions: (1) NERD patients scored significantly higher than controls on all the bowel scales; (2) Bowel symptoms were associated with reflux symptom scores, but not with acid exposure. (3) The presence of IBS features in a large proportion of NERD patients reflects a high prevalence of visceral hypersensitivity that may aggravate acid reflux symptoms.