Somatization is the key link in the overlap between functional gastrointestinal disorders and other functional somatic syndromes

David McNaughton, Michael P. Jones, Alissa Beath, Nicholas Talley

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review


Background: Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) are often associated with pain and result in reduced quality-of-life for individuals affected. They are also associated with elevated anxiety1 and a tendency to somatization2in which psychological distress receives apparent somatic expression. Similar findings have been reported in other functional somatic syndromes such as chronic pain and fibromyalgia. The extent to which these associations are specific to gastrointestinal (GI) disorders has not been examined. This study aimed to estimate 1) the overlap between functional GI and extra-GI conditions within individuals,2) level of GI and extra GI symptom burden in sufferers of GI and extra-GI disorders and3) the association between somatization and symptom burden in sufferers of GI and extra GI disorders. Methods: Individuals were sampled from gastroenterology clinics, chiropractic clinics and community samples screened for GI symptoms occurring more than rarely.Standard diagnostic criteria were applied to GI disorders (Rome III) and extra-GI conditions(chronic pain, lower back pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue). All individuals completed standardized measures of GI and extra-GI symptom burden, including the gastrointestinal symptom rating scale (GSRS). Due to overlap, individuals were categorized as meeting criteria for FGID only, extra-GI only, both FGID and extra GI or neither. The final group did not meet criteria but did experience GI or extra GI symptoms and are considered subsyndromal.Pearson correlations (r) are reported. Results: A total of 129 individuals were recruited and grouped as per Table 1. Among individuals who qualified for FGID or extra-GI syndromes39% met criteria for both. Mean GSRS scores were higher in groups meeting FGID criteria but only by degree. Somatic pain intensity scores were highest in groups meeting extra-GI criteria but also elevated in FGIDs. The association between somatization and both GSRS and somatic pain intensity was moderate to strong in all groups and always reached statistical significance (p<0.05) including those who did not meet criteria but were subsyndromal (Table 1). Conclusion: There is substantial overlap between GI and extra-GI somatic disorders.Although somatization levels are elevated in FGIDs compared with extra-GI syndromes the correlation between somatization and both somatic pain and GSRS is relatively similar across conditions. This suggests that somatization may be a common factor in the brain-gut connection across FGID and extra-GI functional somatic syndromes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S525-S525
Number of pages1
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


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