5 Common Digestive Issues in Women
The gastrointestinal system is more complex in women than it is in men, for multiple reasons. Female hormones are certainly a factor since studies have shown that women often experience recurring GI symptoms related to their menstrual cycle. Women’s intestines are also 10 cm longer than their male counterparts, and a woman’s gastrointestinal organs are more crowded than a man’s because they have to share space with reproductive organs as well.
Due to these physiological and hormonal differences, women face an uphill battle when it comes to their digestive health. You can learn more about the five most common digestive issues in women, treatment options, and how to enjoy a better quality of life, despite these digestive health struggles.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Women are twice as likely as men to have IBS, and studies have shown that female hormones influence the severity of IBS. Symptoms vary, but they generally consist of stomach pain, bloating, constipation, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. While there is no cure, IBS can usually be managed through dietary changes.
Women are diagnosed with gallstones twice as often as men. Female hormones raise cholesterols levels in the bile, which slows down movement in the gallbladder. Gallstones are formed when the cholesterol hardens, and symptoms are usually upper abdominal pain, nausea, yellowish skin/eyes, and clay-colored bowel movements. Hormones also influence the pancreas and liver, which can lead to diseases affecting those organs.
Women experience constipation 3 times more often than men. Chronic constipation has also been observed in women with pelvic floor disorders, and women also report higher incidences of constipation during their menstrual cycle. Dietary changes and certain types of physical activity, like yoga, can help ease chronic constipation. Contact a DHA or DHC nurse practitioner for additional dietary and physical recommendations.
Although women are diagnosed with colon cancer slightly less often than men overall, women have a 1 in 23 chance of developing colon cancer, whereas men have a 1 in 21 chance—women who have had reproductive cancers are at a greater risk of developing colon cancer. If you’ve been diagnosed with reproductive cancer, know that your colon cancer risk is higher, meaning preventive measures, like getting your routine colonoscopy as recommended is vital.
This occurs when food takes a long time to pass from the stomach to the intestines, and it is more common in women than it is in men. This can lead to nausea and bloating. Like most digestive health disorders, effective treatment requires dietary changes.
Of course, you’re not guaranteed to have any of the disorders listed above simply because of your gender, and there are steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of these issues. Be sure you’re drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fiber, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking probiotics for gut health.
Women tend to find it more difficult than men to discuss their GI health, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists at Digestive Health Associates today.Back to "Blog"