Men & Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, affects up to 20% of the adult population in many western countries. Interestingly, only 25% of cases are men. There are many speculations as to why this is the case, but not much hard evidence. Some theories about why men are not as susceptible to IBS as women are:
- Pain Sensitivity: Men are not as sensitive to pain as women are. So, what a woman might consider to be a crippling pain, a man might think is a mild annoyance that is not worth reporting to his doctor.
- Hormonal Differences: Many women report that their IBS pain increases during their period, so men might not be as susceptible because their hormones are different and more stable. In one study, researchers discovered that men without IBS had higher hormone levels than men with IBS, which may indicate a hormonal cause for IBS. Additionally, another study indicated that low levels of testosterone were associated with IBS.
- Sociocultural Differences: Men do not seek treatment as readily as women. It is possible that there are an equal number of men with IBS as women, but men may just be underreporting. This is supported by the fact that in India, men have a much higher IBS rate than women. This may indicate that reporting medical issues may be culturally based. In western culture, men are often expected to "suck it up" and "take it like a man" and thus may be less likely to see a doctor about IBS.
- Convenience: Women are accustomed to seeing a doctor once a year for an annual gynecological exam. They might simply have more opportunity to report IBS symptoms, whereas an otherwise healthy man does not visit the doctor as frequently and may have less opportunity to report IBS.
- Psychology: There appears to be a link between psychological issues and IBS. Conditions like depression and anxiety may lead to IBS, and women are much more likely than men to suffer from these disorders.
It is probably a combination of some or all of these factors that causes IBS to be or seem to be more prevalent in women than men. If you think you are suffering from IBS, you should see your health practitioner as soon as possible.
Some common symptoms of IBS:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
- Mucus in the stool
Additionally, many symptoms that seem like IBS might be an indication of a more serious problem. Your health practitioner can advise what tests should be performed to diagnose your condition.