Top Five GI Problems Affecting Women
A couple of months ago, we took a closer look at the top five GI problems affecting men and offered some tips and remedies to aid these conditions. This month, we’re focusing on the top five GI problems affecting women and treatment for these common conditions. The GI system in women is impacted by more factors than a male’s GI system. Some of these factors include that a woman’s intestines are 10 cm longer than their male counterparts and that female hormones and menstrual cycles have been linked to recurrent GI symptoms. In addition, there are various stages in a woman’s life that may impact her gastrointestinal health. Pregnancy plays a significant role when it comes to exhibiting new or intensifying existing GI symptoms.
Gastroparesis occurs when it takes a long time for food to pass from the stomach through the intestines. This condition is more common in women, but the exact reason for this is unclear. A possible explanation for why gastroparesis affects women more than men is because women have slower stomach motility. A doctor’s visit is required to diagnose gastroparesis, but treatment typically involves changing your diet to eat smaller, low-fat meals and medication in more severe cases.
Research has found that IBS is more common in females than in males, making it one of the top GI problems affecting women. This prevalence among women has been linked to menstrual cycles and hormones as studies have shown that menstrual cycles can impact the severity of IBS symptoms. While there is no cure for IBS, pinpointing and avoiding trigger foods can help relieve some of the pain, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea associated with this GI condition.
Inflammatory bowel disease, which encompasses conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is about twice as common in women than in men. Symptoms of IBD may include diarrhea, blood in the stool, weight loss, and anemia. A colonoscopy and biopsy can help make a diagnosis. Treatments vary but typically require long-term medication, many of which are safe for use during pregnancy. This is important as pregnancy may worsen IBD symptoms in some cases.
Due to a slightly longer colon transit time, women are also more likely to experience constipation than men. Constipation has also been linked to various stages in a woman’s life, with an increased likelihood of occurring days before menstruation, pregnancy, and after menopause. At-home remedies for constipation include an increased fiber intake, drinking more fluids, and regular exercise. Still, your doctor may recommend stool softeners or other medications if you don’t respond to these initial remedies.
In addition to having slower stomach motility, it also takes women a longer time to empty the gallbladder than men. Because of this, women are twice as likely to develop gallstones. Like some of the other GI problems affecting women that we’ve discussed, gallstones tend to be more prevalent during pregnancy because of the fluctuating female hormones. This could be one of the reasons why many women develop gallstones after giving birth. Some common symptoms of gallbladder disease include nausea, vomiting, and upper right abdominal pain that occurs after eating. A diagnosis of gallbladder disease requires testing via ultrasound, and treatment may require gallbladder removal.
Contact Birmingham Gastroenterology
No matter what stage of life you’re in or what GI problems you may be experiencing, Birmingham Gastroenterology Associates is here to help. We have decades of experience treating diseases and disorders in all parts of the digestive system. If you have questions about other GI problems affecting women, set up an appointment with a specialist today. To make an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options, call us at (205) 271-8000.