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.
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.
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.
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
ABC’s Of IBS