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18Jun

Ask any woman if she has had chronic digestive problems in her life. The answers will most likely be positive rather than her male counterpart.  According to the International Gastrointestinal Disorders,” A significant proportion – 35% to 40% – of individuals who report IBS in the community are male. Approximately 60% to 65% of individuals who report IBS in the community are female,” (2016). Although, It is important to take notice that digestive issues do have a stigma and it is possible that more men suffer, but chose to “tough it out.”

Statistics

  • [1] Colon Cancer: Third most common cancer in women.
  • [2] Inflammatory Bowel Disease * Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis*: More frequent in women with a ratio of 2:1
  • [3] Gastroparesis: 80% of sufferers are women
  • [4] Gallstones: Two-Three more likely in women than in men
  • [5] Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Though IBS-D is more common in men who seek treatment, IBS overall more prevalent in women

Anatomical differences

Surprisingly, men and women are quite different when it concerns internal anatomy. Males do have a shorter and naturally faster digestive system than females. Women are born with a 10cm longer colon that descends down into the pelvis region next to her reproductive organs.

The amount of time it takes for waste to successfully pass through a male’s large intestine averages around 14 hours. Whereas a female it can take up to 47 hours.

The impact of female hormones

Women have a disadvantage when it comes to the likelihood of digestive problems. Female hormones like estrogen and progesterone that have significant effects on the health of the GI tract. Hormones travel through the bloodstream and an imbalance of these can inhibit digestion to be too fast or too slow resulting in IBS type symptoms. Menstrual age women can experience an overload of hormones during her period and can result in a GI impact causing bloating and diarrhea. On the other end of the spectrum, post-menstrual age women are more susceptible to have constipation. In conclusion, older women have a lack of progesterone and estradiol that produced looser stools which relieve constipation.

Birth control is another variable to consider. The oral pill most women take, disrupt the natural balance of hormones in the bloodstream. By while taking the pill you add synthetic hormones in your body. Like antibiotics, birth control has now been studied to kill off parts of your microbiome. Overall, without a balanced gut-flora and hormones, healthy digestion is difficult to obtain, (Natural womanhood, 2016).

Chronic stress

Most women uphold life commitments such as work, mothering, being a wife, and keeping close relationships with friends all at the same time. This type of lifestyle leaves no time for self-care. Although, men can experience chronic stress, according to priorygroup.com, “The number of women experiencing work-related stress is 50% higher than for men of the same age.” The term ‘chronic stress’ refers to a biological response to overly demanding events over a prolonged period of time. The sympathetic system triggers the physiological changes during the flight-or-fight response when experiencing outside stress. Furthermore, this causes slow digestion because the brain thinks you are being attacked by a bear when really you have a stressful 9-5 job. The type of stress addressed is different from feeling stressed out once in a while, it is experienced longer and felt 24/7.

Chronic stress can result in damaging physical symptoms such as digestive issues like gas, bloating, and constipation. In severe cases, chronic stress can cause inflammation which may lead to diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, (What is Inflammation 2016).

Sources:

[1] Brant, Steven R., N., & C., G. (2008, October 01). Is there a gender difference in the prevalence of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis? Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ibdjournal/article-abstract/14/suppl_2/S2/4653808?redirectedFrom=PDF
[2] What is gastroparesis? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gastroparesisclinic.org/index.php?pageId=1149&moduleId=195

[3]Novacek, G. (2006, October). Gender and gallstone disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17103289

[4] About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aboutibs.org/facts-about-ibs/statistics.html
[5] Person. (2018, May 09). Do women get more stomach issues than men? Retrieved from https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/wellbeing/a29032/stomach-problems-ibs-men-women/
[6]Is the Pill wrecking your gut? (2019, February 21). Retrieved from https://naturalwomanhood.org/is-the-pill-wrecking-your-gut/

[7] Why are stress levels among women 50% higher than men? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.priorygroup.com/blog/why-are-stress-levels-among-women-50-higher-than-men
[8] What is inflammation? (2018, February 22). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/
[9] https://www.centraltexasendoscopy.com/news-article/the-gender-lines-of-digestive-health.html

  

Laura Gamble

My name is Laura Gamble and I enjoy dancing, hiking, and making healthy food. But, my “friend” of about two years, IBS (c), has held me back sometimes. At the prime age of 17, I have gone through countless, treatment plans, ER trips, doctors appointments, claimed “IBS miracle diets”, and battled with mental health issues sourced from my IBS. Despite all of my hardships, I have figured out what works the best for me physically and mentally. Though IBS is claimed to have 200000 cases in the US alone, there needs to be more advocacy and places for people to turn to when in need. My goal is to share my story, my IBS hacks, and full support to teens and adults experiencing similar issues.

2 Responses to Why does Gastrointestinal Problems Affect Mostly Women

  1. Interesting article which may resonate with a lot of us, thanks Laura

  2. Pingback: Why does Gastrointestinal Problems Affect Mostly Women – phasttrack system

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