Child and Parent Perceived Food-Induced Gastrointestinal Symptoms and Quality of Life in Children with Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

Published:December 19, 2013DOI:


      It is unknown whether children with functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders identify specific foods that exacerbate their GI symptoms. The objectives of this study were to determine the perceived role of food on GI symptoms and to determine the impact of food-induced symptoms on quality of life (QOL) in children with functional GI disorders. Between August and November 2010, 25 children ages 11 to 17 years old with functional GI disorders and a parent completed a food symptom association questionnaire and validated questionnaires assessing FGID symptoms and QOL. In addition, children completed a 24-hour food recall, participated in focus groups to identify problematic foods and any coping strategies, and discussed how their QOL was affected. Statistical analyses were conducted using χ2, t test, Mann-Whitney U test, Wilcoxon signed rank, and Spearman's ρ. Children identified a median of 11 (range=2 to 25) foods as exacerbating a GI symptom, with the most commonly identified foods being spicy foods, cow's milk, and pizza. Several coping strategies were identified, including consuming smaller portions, modifying foods, and avoiding a median of 8 (range=1 to 20) foods. Children reported that food-induced symptoms interfered with school performance, sports, and social activities. Although the parent's assessment of their child's QOL negatively correlated with the number of perceived symptom-inducing foods in their child, this relationship was not found in the children. Findings suggest that specific foods are perceived to exacerbate GI symptoms in children with functional GI disorders. In addition, despite use of several coping strategies, food-induced symptoms can adversely impact children's QOL in several important areas.


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      M. J. Carlson is a pediatric clinical dietitian, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston; at the time of the study, she was a graduate student at Texas Woman's University, Houston, TX.


      C. E. Moore is an associate professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Texas Woman's University, Houston, TX.


      C. M. Tsai is a research coordinator, Baylor College of Medicine, and research coordinator, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX.


      R. J. Shulman is professor of Pediatrics, Texas Children's Hospital; professor, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine; and professor, Children's Nutrition Research Center, Houston, TX.


      B. P. Chumpitazi is director, Neurogastroenterology and Motility Program, Texas Children's Hospital, and assistant professor, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.