BACKGROUND Oxytocin and the oxytocin receptor have been demonstrated in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and have been shown to exert physiological effects on gut motility. The role for oxytocin in the pathophysiology of GI complaints is unknown. The aim of this study was to examine genetic variations or polymorphism of oxytocin (OXT) and its receptor (OXTR) genes in patients with GI complaints without visible organic abnormalities. METHODS Genetic variants in the OXT promoter region, and in the OXTR gene in DNA samples from 131 rigorously evaluated patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), 408 homozygous subjects referred for lactase (LCT-13910 C>T, rs4988235) genotyping, and 299 asymptomatic blood donors were compared. One polymorphism related to the OXT gene (rs6133010 A>G) and 4 related to the OXTR gene (rs1465386 G>T, rs3806675 G>A, rs968389 A>G, rs1042778 G>T) were selected for genotyping using Applied Biosystems 7900 HT allele discrimination assays. RESULTS There were no statistically significant differences in the genotype or allele frequencies in any of the SNPs when IBS patients were compared to healthy controls. Among subjects referred for lactase genotyping, the rs6133010 A>G OXT promoter A/G genotype tended to be more common in the 154 non-persistent (27.3%) subjects than in the 254 lactase persistant (18.1%) subjects and in the healthy controls (19.4%) (p = 0.08). When direct comparing, the A/G genotype was less common in the OXT promoter region in controls (p = 0.09) and in subjects with lactase persistence (p = 0.03) compared to subjects with lactase non-persistence. When healthy controls were viewed according to their own LCT-13910 genotypes, the C/C lactase non-persistent controls had a higher frequency for the OXT promoter A/G genotype than LCT-13910 T/T lactase persistent controls (41.2% vs 13.1%).No significant differences in frequencies of the investigated OXTR SNPs were noted in this study. CONCLUSION The results suggest that polymorphism in the promoter region of the OXT gene is most common in subjects with lactase non-persistence. This polymorphism may not be related to GI symptoms, as it is related to lactase non-persistence also in healthy controls.