The Interesting Differences Between Men’s And Women’s Digestion

women's digestion

The human body is a complex system composed of numerous organs and functions, each with its own unique role and characteristics. One area where distinctions between genders can be observed is digestion. While men and women share the fundamental process of digesting food, there are notable differences in how their digestive systems operate. Women’s digestion compared to men’s has subtle differences that are worth noting. 

Digestive Differences In Men And Women

Understanding the differences between men’s and women’s digestion can provide valuable insights into their specific nutritional needs and overall digestive health. At Birmingham Gastroenterology, we can help explain the differences between men’s and women’s digestion. 

Hormonal Influences

Hormonal imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the blood. Hormones like testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, and adrenaline help to regulate many bodily functions, including digestion. Although both men and women are susceptible to GI symptoms due to hormonal influences, studies suggest that women may experience a higher prevalence of constipation, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss or gain, and bloating during their menstrual cycle.

This can often be seen during the luteal phase (the period following ovulation), when women may experience a decrease in gut transit. Fluctuations in hormones can also be caused by lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, a poor diet, stress, environmental toxins, or a lack of exercise. 


The National Institute of Health states that women have a higher proportion of body fat compared to men. A higher proportion of body weight stemming from fat can decelerate the process of burning calories, resulting in weight gain and, in certain instances, a reduced metabolic rate. In fact, studies have shown that a man’s metabolism is anywhere between 3 to 10 percent higher than a woman’s. A heightened metabolic rate plays a crucial role in digestion as it sustains gut motility and keeps your digestive system active and in motion.

Susceptibility To Digestive Disorders

The differences in women’s digestion when compared to men’s can be seen through the susceptibility to digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS rates in women are between 1.5 and 3 times higher than those in men. Women are also more susceptible to chronic constipation, dyspepsia, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), along with diarrhea, bloating, and nausea during menstruation. It is also important to note that colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in women. The most common symptoms of colorectal cancer include

  • Excessive fatigue or weakness
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Blood in or around your stool or any changes in stool pattern or density
  • The urge to have a bowel movement even when nothing passes
  • Persistent cramping or abdominal pain 

If you are experiencing the symptoms above, it is important to contact your healthcare provider. 

Structural Differences

Research suggests that it takes food roughly 36 hours to move through the entire colon-yet women’s digestion may slow that down. This is due to women having a slightly longer colon than men- with roughly 10 extra centimeters. Most women also have a slower emptying time in the stomach and colon when compared to men. 

Being educated on the differences between men’s and women’s digestion can help you make informed decisions when it comes to the health of your gut. At Birmingham Gastroenterology, we have decades of experience treating diseases and disorders in all parts of the digestive system. Knowing the difference between men’s and women’s digestion can help you make informed decisions about your gut health. To make an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options or to ask questions about your digestive system, call us at (205) 271-8000.

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