Why Women Suffer From IBS More Than Men?

Why Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) More Common in Women?

Statistics report that women suffer from IBS twice as often as men, approximately 65% compared to 35% in the Western World. The exact reason why females encounter irritable bowel syndrome more often than males are not known for sure and researchers have attributed this fact to various reasons.

According to Jeffrey M. Aron, M.D. (Gastroenterology – San Francisco, California), the clue could be in the anatomy, physiology and the environment of women. Doctor Aron explains that within the gastrointestinal tract there are more immune, nerve and hormonal cells, than in the rest of the body and that therefore our gut is an incredibly big receptive. Nerve channels, that send signals from the gut to the brain, are more developed in women and the brain processes gut signals in a different way from men’s brain. Women are therefore more sensitive to symptoms which results in signaling to the brain that there is an inflammatory response in the GI tract.

Women Suffer More From IBS Than Men

Women Suffer More From IBS Than Men

From doing a bit of research I found out that the main reported reasons, which could attribute a higher percentage of IBS in females compared to the male counterpart, are:


Some studies have suggested that the female hormone estrogen may lead to increased sensitivity of the gut and therefore increase IBS symptoms. Some women affirm that their IBS symptoms are worse during certain phases of their menstrual cycle (i.e. pre-menstrual or ovulation periods). This could mean that the male hormone may somewhat prevent IBS symptoms for men.

Pain Perception

You may not believe this, I was shocked and indignant myself, when I first heard it, but it seems that men tend to have a higher pain threshold than women. I know it is hard to believe it, after all we endure excruciating labour and birth pain, but here is an interesting article that explains it quite simply.

Stress Response

It is renowned that stress has a negative influence on irritable bowel syndrome and that the adrenal hormone Cortisol is unusually high in women with IBS.


In general women suffer more of depression, trauma, anxiety and other psychological problems than men and this could possibly explain why IBS is more common in women.


In general women tend to see doctors and specialists for various reasons on a more regular basis, not necessarily related with IBS and if they have experienced pain and changes in bowel habits, they will ask for the doctor advice and help. Often men do not visit medical professionals, even if they have IBS symptoms.


If you have an interest in reading more about this topic, here are some interesting articles, but remember to always consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Women

Hormones and IBS




About Larah

I have been suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome for many years, but it took a longtime to get a diagnosis, since then I have been following a low FODMAP diet, which has changed my life for the better. This is my story and experience with IBS and the low FODMAP diet.

15 comments on “Why Women Suffer From IBS More Than Men?

  1. After re-starting I realised just how bad my IBS symptoms were. I spent weeks blaming bread, dairy, coffee (admittedly coffee doesn’t help) but for me, using the Lady Soma Probiotics is the easiest way to guarantee regular bowel movements! Its a good valu, and I just take the Lady Soma pills with any food I eat, and I have not had IBS since.

    • Hi Jasmine, thank you for your comment. I’m very happy for you, it’s great that you have managed to control your IBS symptoms. Keep me updated. All the very best???.

  2. Interesting. I hesitate to make generalizations about men and women (men, after all, certainly suffer from stress and depression), but there must be some reason why it’s more common (or at least more commonly diagnosed) in women. Seems important to understand why.

  3. Why do more women suffer from IBS than men? Because sometimes being a woman
    sucks. We get so many of the annoying and disruptive medical conditions. We have to
    deal with periods, pregnancy, menopause, IBS, and so much more. Yes men do have
    their own medical issues but for the most part it seems like women get the short
    end of the stick when it comes to this kind of thing. And I definitely think you
    may be onto something in saying that it could be stress related since women do
    tend to have more stress related issues.

    • lol Nicole, that’s so right, we do seem to get through a lot more than men, saying that I am so grateful to be a woman and have had the chance to experience pregnancy and child birth, even if painful, tiring and body destroying 😉

  4. I would like to think that male and female bodies are much the same (apart from reproductive organs) and that IBS sufferers are equal on both sides. However, I think with the culture I come from, men are less inclined to visit a doctor than women, they don’t speak up as much about pain.

    Perhaps we women also ‘accept’ more stressful things (and thus symptoms feel worse), whereas men can shrug things off. I’m not sure. That’s just what I’ve experienced, but I think the research you’ve collected here is also very valid.

    Also bear in mind that researchers are discovering new things about the human body all the time!

  5. I am a little upset (more than surprised actually) that the pain threshold for women is lower than for men.
    Anyway, it is not very surprising that women have more of IBS than men.
    We take up more responsibility around the house than men. Stress is also higher.

  6. Wow, I can’t believe the article about the pain perception! I would have to question that one. I can believe IBS having a bigger hold on Women because of our hormones and our stress response, totally agree.

    When you read all the reported reasons that could attribute a higher percentage of IBS in women, there is a “main” triangle that contributes to IBS in women if you ask me. Does that make sense? LOL

    It starts off at Hormonal being the top of the triangle and the main problem that starts the ball rolling… once that start it causes the Stress response, then we go into the Psychological side (depression, trauma, anxiety). Pain perception and Social come into action because those are natural responses that play out in the triangle of IBS.

    This is what I will call it! The Triangle of IBS!  Now I am tired and need a glass of water hee,hee.

  7. Has there been any study on women taking the contraceptive pill and links to IBS? Some of those pills and IUD’s contain estrogen. The fact that women have more cases of IBS than men is very interesting. I have only ever met women who suffer, I wonder if less men report it than women?

    • Apparently even though there is a connection between female sex hormones and the digestive system, the studies done so far say that there is very little connection between contraceptive pills and the increase of IBS symptoms.
      You may find some useful information here:
      Indeed it is an interesting fact that women suffer from IBS more than men, I guess the combination of the reasons listed on the article also include those men who don’t report it.

  8. I had no idea that women suffered from IBS more than men. Those numbers are incredible. I wonder if it’s perhaps that IBS in men is not so readily diagnosed. I suffer from IBS and I’m a man but I struggled on with the symptoms for years before I spoke to a doctor.

    • Thanks for stopping by Alex. Sorry to hear that you also suffer from IBS, I hope the low FODMAPs diet can help you too.

  9. As a woman who suffers from IBS I would say that hormones are the main reasons for my IBS. I really did not think that women would suffer more than men.

    • Hi Rachel, thank you for the comment. Yes I have just discovered that too. Also with this, us women got the short end of the stick…

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