Gastrointestinal Conditions: Same or Different for Men and Women?


Most adults are too embarrassed to disclose their ‘trials and tribulations’ with regular bowel movements, but yes, it is true that most people, regardless of age, suffer from gastrointestinal problems. According to medical literature and healthcare articles, gastrointestinal or GI conditions seem to be more prevalent among women than among men.

In ‘Gender-related differences in functional gastrointestinal disorders’, the author provides strong evidence in favor of the hypothesis that GI disorders and chronic pain related to the GI system are more prevalent in women than in men. The article claims that the higher occurrence of GI problems in the female gender is due to one major reason: The gender-specific difference in “perception of pain,” which again, may be related to the physiological differences in the anatomical structures that control pain transmissions from the brain to the GI systems in the male and the female bodies.

One such common digestive disorder condition is known as the “the irritable bowel syndrome” or IBS, which reportedly affects more women than men. In a study titled Are gastrointestinal problems different for men and women, the literature indicates the GI muscle movements are somewhat slower in case of females, which is the primary reason for the high prevalence of IBS among the women population. In an article titled Why Gastrointestinal Disorders Afflict Women More Often, Tanja Babic, a researcher at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, claims that the movement of food particles from the stomach through the intestines is hindered due to the inhibitive response received by GI nerve-cells from the brain in case of females. Babic further points out that the research data confirms that the nerve cells controlling the female intestines are somewhat sluggish and receive more inhibitory signals from the brain. This research work offers a plausible explanation of why GI conditions are more prevalent in women.

Understanding, Diagnosing and Treating Women’s Gastrointestinal Health Issues also supports the belief that IBS is significantly more prevalent in women than in men. This article states that another similar GI problem, dyspepsia, which is typically characterized by indigestion, bloating, and upset stomach, is also found more in women. Some persistent GI problems, if ignored for a very long time, can lead to serious health conditions like stomach cancer.

Gastric Cancer however, detected more commonly in males than in females, has a reported male-female case ratio of 1.8: 1 in UK. While high animal protein, diet, smoking, or family history are all valid reasons for causing stomach cancer, men have been proved to be biologically predisposed to developing gastric cancer. However, colorectal cancer is common among women above 50. That is why women over 50 are strongly advised to go for regular colorectal cancer screening tests.

The research articles used here collectively suggest that while IBS and dyspepsia are common GI conditions in females, gastric cancer is a common GI condition in males.

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