Job Stress Brings Gastrointestinal Problems
Study Shows High Levels of Gut Problems Among Military and 9/11 Cleanup Crews
WebMD News Archive
Gastrointestinal Problems in the Military
Gastrointestinal problems are also prevalent in military personnel, says
Mark Riddle, MD, DrPH, a researcher at the Naval Medical Research Center in
Silver Spring, Md. Servicemen and servicewomen, he says, "are under a lot of
stress as you can imagine during deployment."
Riddle says the fourth leading cause of visits to VA Medical Centers is
To find out more, Riddle and his colleagues evaluated data from the Defense
Medical Surveillance System, identifying nearly 32,000 cases of
gastrointestinal problems in active duty U.S. military personnel between 1999
and 2007. Among the problems were constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel
syndrome (IBS), and indigestion after an infection of the stomach and
When Riddle looked for links between the past gastrointestinal problems and
current ones, he found an association between a history of gastroenteritis --
infection of the stomach and intestines caused by bacteria, virus, or other
organisms -- and all types of gastrointestinal problems later.
The highest risk was for diarrhea and IBS. Having a history of
gastroenteritis boosted the risk of diarrhea sixfold, and of IBS nearly
fourfold. The increased risk for constipation or indigestion was less, each
The gastrointestinal problems persist, Riddle found. Nearly 30% of the
military with problems were still getting care two years after the
The typical advice to prevent gastrointestinal infections -- such as boiling
water or peeling food that may be contaminated -- doesn't hold up in combat
situations or emergency environments such as the post 9/11 cleanup, Riddle
''We are developing vaccines to hopefully prevent [gastrointestinal
infections]," he says.
"We need to come up I think with a vaccine -- a good solution -- or
chemoprophylaxis like you take for malaria. But it would have to be something
you could safely take for a long time."