Women suffer a variety of unique health and wellness issues. The simple structure of the
body is such that it is subject to breast and cervical cancer, pregnancy and menopause related issues, and even psychological issues like body image. In addition, women are more affected by gastrointestinal issues like IBS than men. Oftentimes women go undiagnosed until—very frequently—a gynecologist identifies the issue. Last year, The American Physiological Society began a study to start to learn why women are more likely to be affected and to learn what can be done about it.
The difference between men and women and their gastrointestinal issues is perhaps at its most prevalent in the case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a common issue in the United States. It is “estimated to affect 8 to 20% of the US population—5 to 19% of men and 14-24% of women.” according to the University of north Carolina Chapel Hill Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorder.
Unfortunately, among the factors leading to a high prevalence in women is sexual abuse. In one study, “among women in a referral-based gastroenterology clinic, 51% reported a history of sexual and/or life threatening physical abuse.” These abuses lead to severe abdominal pain and further chronic issues such as IBS.
UNC also noted that, “Among women, IBS is most prevalent during menstruation years,” “Over 50% of patients seeing a gynecologist for lower abdominal pain have IBS,” and “Women with IBS are three times more likely to receive a hysterectomy than women without IBS.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common symptoms of IBS include the following:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- A bloated feeling
- Diarrhea or constipation—sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
- Mucus in the stool
Despite having to deal with these symptoms, many women find relief in the following tips:
- Eat at regular hours.
- Chew food slowly and thoroughly.
- Avoid large or high-fat meals or excess caffeine.
- Get regular physical activity. It can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety and promote good bowel function.
- Avoid delaying the urge to have a bowel movement.
- Avoid straining during a bowel movement; try to relax and take your time.
The good news is that doctors and researchers are starting to put a more focused effort into discovering why women are more likely to suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and what can be done to prevent it and to ease the symptoms. I you are undiagnosed but are experiencing any of the above symptoms on a regular basis be sure to check with your doctor or give us a call and make an appointment.