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Development of Functional Diarrhea, Constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Dyspepsia During and After Traveling Outside the USA

An Erratum to this article was published on 02 August 2007


Background   Persistent gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms after travel abroad may be common. It remains unclear how often subjects who developed new GI symptoms while abroad have persistent symptoms on return. The objective of this retrospective study was to evaluate the prevalence of persistent GI symptoms in a healthy cohort of travelers. Methods   One hundred and eight consecutive patients, mostly returned missionaries, attending the University of Utah International Travel Clinic for any reason (but mostly GI symptoms) had data recorded about their bowel habits before, during, and after travel abroad. All subjects had standard hematological, biochemical, and microbiological tests to exclude known causes of their symptoms. Endoscopic procedures were performed when considered necessary by the treating physician. Diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, and dyspepsia were defined according to the Rome II Criteria. Results   Eighty three (82% men and 18% women, median age 21 years) completed the survey with 68 subjects completing the questionnaire about bowel habits before and during travel. Among the respondents, 55 (82.1%) did not have any symptoms before travel. During travel, 41 (63%) developed new onset diarrhea; 6 (9%) developed constipation; 16 (24%) IBS, 29 (45%) bloating; and 11 (16%) dyspepsia. Of those who developed symptoms during travel, 27 (68%) had persistent diarrhea, 3 (50%) had persistent constipation, 10 (63%) had persistent IBS, 12 (43%) had persistent bloating and 8 (73%) had persistent dyspepsia. The presence of bowel symptoms during and after travel was not associated with age, gender, travel destination, or duration of travel. Conclusions: This study suggests that new onset of diarrhea, IBS, constipation, and dyspepsia are common among subjects traveling abroad. Gastrointestinal symptoms that develop during travel abroad usually persist on return.

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Grant Support: Supported in part by a Veterans Affairs Merit Review Grant (AKT)

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ashok K. Tuteja.

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Institution where work was performed: Department of Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

An erratum to this article can be found at

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Tuteja, A.K., Talley, N.J., Gelman, S.S. et al. Development of Functional Diarrhea, Constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Dyspepsia During and After Traveling Outside the USA. Dig Dis Sci 53, 271–276 (2008).

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  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Dyspepsia