Study Finds Women Are More Susceptible to GI Issues

05. 09. 2016

Approximately 70 million Americans struggle with chronic gastrointestinal conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. While these conditions can affect both men and women alike, new research indicates that women are much more likely to suffer from these issues than men.

The digital healthcare company Amino examined two years of data from more than 4.7 million individuals. They found that women are:

  • 2.9 times more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • 2.3 times more likely to have Celiac disease
  • 2.1 times more likely to develop gallstones
  • 1.5 times more likely to have acid reflux
  • 1.2 times more likely to have Crohn’s disease

Because these conditions vary greatly from one another, it is difficult to pinpoint one cause that explains why women are at greater risk than men. However, experts suspect that women’s physical makeup could be a factor. A 2015 study by the American Physiological Society found that intestinal nerve cells are more sluggish in women which may contribute to certain gastrointestinal disorders like IBS. Higher levels of estrogen could also play a role. Estrogen is known to elevate cholesterol levels in bile which slows gallbladder movement and may lead to a higher incidence of gallstones in women. Maneesh Singh, M.D., explained in Amino’s release, “There is some evidence to support a slight female predominance in a disease such as Crohn’s, for instance, and this could be attributed to hormone changes” (Source: Shape).

Another possible explanation is that women are simply more likely to seek medical attention for their gastrointestinal issues. A Kaiser Women’s Health survey found that 91 percent of women claimed to have visited a doctor within the last two years, compared to just 75 percent of men. Because women are more likely to stay current with routine follow-ups, they are also more likely to get recommended screenings and receive a diagnosis for their symptoms (Source: Amino).

The results of this study should encourage women to be more aware of their risk for gastrointestinal conditions, but both men and women can benefit greatly by seeking treatment for problematic symptoms. Common symptoms associated with gastrointestinal diseases include:

  • Chronic heartburn or indigestion
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gas and bloating

These symptoms may not be serious, but it is always best to check with your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions. In the event that you do have a gastrointestinal condition, early intervention and treatment will give you the best chance of controlling your symptoms and preventing long-term damage.


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