Gender Can Affect GI Symptoms and Treatment Recommendations 

Gender Can Affect GI Symptoms and Treatment

Did you know that gender can affect GI symptoms and treatment recommendations? When it comes to GI health, “women are from Venus and men are from Mars” rings true as there are differences you should be aware of when it comes to your gender identity and biological sex.

Do you know that women are six times more like­ly to expe­ri­ence irri­ta­ble bow­el syn­drome (IBS), a dis­or­der char­ac­ter­ized by symp­toms includ­ing stom­ach pain, gas, bloat­ing and diar­rhea or con­sti­pa­tion, than men?

Do you know the location of a wom­an’s female organs make the colon’s path­way longer and more com­plex? This can cause diges­tive organs to emp­ty more slow­ly, leading to symp­toms like bloat­ing, con­sti­pa­tion, nau­sea and gallstones.

The Major Ways that Gender Can Affect GI Symptoms and Treatment Recommendations

Hormones Play a Role in GI Health

A man and woman’s diges­tive tracts are not only phys­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent, but female-spe­cif­ic hor­mones can also have vary­ing effects on your digestive system. Female hor­mones, pri­mar­i­ly estro­gen and prog­es­terone, can also affect a wom­an’s over­all gut health. Hor­mon­al fluc­tu­a­tion or imbal­ance can impact the speed food moves through the intestines. In some cas­es, a change in hor­mone lev­els may cause food to pass through more quickly than usu­al, which can lead to diar­rhea, nau­sea or stom­ach pain. In oth­er instances, food moves slow­er, caus­ing peri­ods of con­sti­pa­tion, gas or bloat­ing.

Post-menopausal women com­mon­ly expe­ri­ence con­sti­pa­tion as their prog­es­terone lev­els begin to decrease. Women may also notice diges­tive changes due to their men­stru­al cycle, most com­mon­ly dur­ing the sec­ond half of their cycle, caused by an increase in prog­es­terone and estro­gen lev­els. The increase in hor­mones can cause vary­ing degrees of stom­ach and diges­tive discomfort.

Other GI Issues Unique to Women

Oth­er diges­tive dif­fer­ences com­monly experienced by women include:

• An increased sen­si­tiv­i­ty in the throat and esoph­a­gus, lead­ing to heart­burn
• An increased sen­si­tiv­i­ty to cer­tain med­ica­tions, includ­ing aspirin and anti-inflam­ma­to­ry med­ica­tions (NSAIDS), that can increase a wom­an’s risk of devel­op­ing inflam­ma­tion, ulcers or stom­ach bleeding
• Low­er pro­duc­tion of stom­ach acid, reduc­ing the risk of devel­op­ing ulcers

Let’s face it – not all gas­troin­testi­nal symp­toms are the result of struc­tur­al or hor­mon­al dif­fer­ences. Some food aller­gies or under­ly­ing health con­di­tions can trig­ger gas­troin­testi­nal symp­toms.

Treatment for Women’s GI Issues

Just as causes and symptoms can vary for women so too can treatment options. If you are experiencing GI symptoms, it is important to consult your physician, no matter your sex or gender. While occasional heartburn might seem like a minor issue, when it becomes chronic, it can lead to dangerous complications.

Women at an aver­age risk for colon can­cer should also receive a colonoscopy begin­ning at age 45 to check for polyps or oth­er abnormalities.

At Ocean Family Gastroenterology, we understand the ways that gender can affect GI issues. To sched­ule an appoint­ment with one of our gastroenterologists, schedule online or call 732-281-1590.