Irritable Bowel Syndrome on the US Mexico Border: A Survey in an Indigent Population Using Rome III Criteria

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To investigate the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and its association with health perception and health care–seeking behavior in this Mexican American population.


The prevalence of IBS ranges from 3% to 20.4% in the United States and 4.4% to 16% in Mexico, based on Rome III and II criteria. However, its epidemiological profile in the US Mexico border is unknown.


We conducted a survey in a randomly selected indigent population (N=521) recruited into a colon cancer screening program (ACCION). The prevalence of IBS was estimated and a multivariable logistic regression was carried out to determine the associated risk factors. Results are summarized using odds ratio and 95% confidence interval (CI).


A total of 464 (89%) completed the survey (mean age, 56.7 y; female, 74.8%). Country of birth was Mexico in 90.5% and the United States in 8.2% and acculturation was more Spanish (94.8%) than English (5.2%). Overall, 5.6% (95% CI, 3.7-8.1) fulfilled criteria for IBS with a predominance among women (6.9%) versus men (1.7%) (P=0.03). On the basis of multivariable analysis, lower number of bowel movements/week (odds ratio, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.80-1.00), having a primary care physician: 4.09 (1.51-11.12), using herbal treatments: 2.76 (1.08-7.06) and a previous IBS diagnosis: 23.11 (3.44-155.45), were significantly associated with the presence of IBS.


The prevalence of IBS on the US Mexico border is comparable with data obtained from studies in both countries. Consulting a primary care physician as an associated factor may reveal the high rate of health-care seeking in IBS patients, while herbal treatments may reflect a cultural influence.

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