Combat rations have long been suspected to affect the bowel habits of deployed soldiers by causing significant constipation.
This may create morbidity and result in decreased troop readiness.
Dr Steele and colleagues determined the effect of combat rations on changes in bowel habits in a uniform population of deployed combat soldiers.
The researchers followed 118 soldiers prospectively over a 4 month period from 2001 through 2002, using a bowel habit diary.
Soldiers were evaluated by age, race, gender, past medical history, ration intake, and medications including fiber use.
|64 % of subjects experienced either no change or improvement|
|American Journal of Surgery|
The research team then screened subjects for changes in diarrhea and constipation.
The team then performed an analysis to determine predictors for changing habits.
The investigators reported that there were 108 males and 10 females with a mean follow-up of 43 days.
Groups were comparable in demographics, time in the combat zone, and fluid/fiber intake.
The researchers found no change in habits in 58 % and 19 % had an increase in constipation.
In addition, the team observed that 13 % had an increase in diarrhea, 10% had increase in both diarrhea and constipation, while 8% had improvements.
Dr Steele’s team concludes, “Combat rations and environment have variable effects on bowel habits, with no loss in workdays.”
“Although 64 % of subjects experienced either no change or improvement, and 36 % had worsened symptoms, this appears unrelated to ration or fiber intake.”