Why IBS Is More Common In Women

There’s no doubt about it: women have extraordinary abilities, including an intense sense of smell and the ability to see more colors and use more brain function than men. However, with the good comes the bad, which can include being diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer, going through menopause, and experiencing more gastrointestinal issues than men do. In fact, women are more likely to get bloated and experience discomfort and irregularity, and are twice as likely to have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). There is no clear explanation as to why women are at higher risk, but scientists believe it could be due to hormones.

stomach area of a woman in her blue pajamas with her hands over her stomach.
Abdominal pain and cramping are common signs of IBS.

IBS Explained

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is not something that even doctors can clearly explain, because there are so many different variables and symptoms. It is a chronic disorder that includes a collection of symptoms that have been going on for at least 6 months, and occur at least 3 times in a month. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bloating
  • Excess gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  • Mucus in the stool

If you meet the criteria for IBS, your doctor might refer you to a gastroenterologist. In some cases, depending on your symptoms and other factors, your provider may recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, which will allow them to examine your colon in more detail. Both procedures will require a scope to be entered into the rectum to view the colon.

Different Types Of IBS

There are 3 different types of IBS:

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C): Most of your stool is hard and lumpy.
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D): Most of your stool is loose and watery.
  • IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M): You have both hard and lumpy bowel movements and loose and watery movements on the same day.

You are at higher risk for IBS if you have:

illustration of someone with red on their stomach area and a microscope of the inside of the stomach on the side

Why Women Are More Prone to IBS

Although researchers and scientists don’t know exactly what causes IBS, there are a few reasons why they think IBS is more common in women. For one thing, according to the American Psychological Association, women tend to be more stressed than men, which can throw off the balance of their gut health. Hormones could also be to blame, and women with IBS might find that symptoms flare up during their periods. 

In addition, some studies have shown that the gastrointestinal (GI) system behaves differently in women because of sex-related features in the brain. According to a study conducted in 2015 by Tanja Babic, a researcher at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, “Women are more likely to develop gastrointestinal disorder than men, but very little research has been done to investigate the reasons behind this. Females also show differences in brain structure and function compared to males, including higher levels of GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter.” 

Babic explained, “Since GABA influences the activity of neurons that control digestion, I wanted to investigate whether GABA activity in these neurons is different in males and females. If we can selectively change the activity of these neurons in females, we would have a potential therapeutic target for better treatment of GI disorders in women.” To investigate her theory, she used rats to measure nerve signals in the brain and the nerves’ responsiveness to the signals. She found that the female rats in her study received more signals that suppressed the intestinal movement of food than the males did.

teal clock with the little hand on 10 and the big hand on 2
Eating small meals at regular hours can help relieve some IBS issues.

Treatment Options

Although there is no real treatment for IBS, if you are experiencing symptoms, there are some things you can do to help reduce flare-ups and manage your condition. Lifestyle changes that can help manage IBS include:

  • Eating at regular hours
  • Regularly exercising
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Avoiding excess caffeine
  • Taking probiotics
  • Avoiding deep-fried or spicy foods

If all else fails, your doctor may prescribe medication to help relieve symptoms like constipation or diarrhea. 

The Cost of Treatment

If you need to see a specialist, like a gastroenterologist, need a colonoscopy to make sure nothing serious is going on in your colon, or need to get medication to manage your IBS symptoms, you will need a good health insurance plan. If you don’t have one, all of this could cost you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars out-of-pocket. This will only lead to more stress, which could make your IBS symptoms worse. Having the right insurance plan will help you better manage your condition, and not have to worry about the costs.

If you’re looking for a plan, or want to upgrade your current plan, come to EZ. EZ.Insure works with the top-rated insurance companies in the country, and our licensed agents can compare plans in your area instantly at no cost to you. Affordable health insurance is possible when working with an EZ agent. We will go over your medical and financial needs, and we guarantee to find you a plan that suits your needs. To compare free quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak with one of our licensed agents, call 888-350-1890.

About The Author:
Cassandra Love

With over a decade of helpful content experience Cassandra has dedicated her career to making sure people have access to relevant, easy to understand, and valuable information. After realizing a huge knowledge gap Cassandra spent years researching and working with health insurance companies to create accessible guides and articles to walk anyone through every aspect of the insurance process.

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