Women & Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS is a very common disorder. Over 20% of Americans may be affected! Curiously, statistics show that 75% of IBS sufferers are women. Although medicine does not yet understand why that is the case, it may be related to hormones and menstruation, or the statistics might be skewed due to women being more willing to talk to their doctor than men. It is possible that there are equal numbers of men and women with IBS, but men are just underreporting. The most common symptoms of IBS are
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Gas and bloating
- Diarrhea or constipation
- A combination of alternating diarrhea and constipation
Menstruation and IBS
It is possible that fluctuations in hormone levels affect IBS. Many women report that gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea all increase during menstruation. Nearly half of women who suffer from IBS report that their symptoms become more severe during their periods.
IBS and Depression
Depression and anxiety have been shown to contribute to IBS. Both of these conditions are more prevalent in women than in men.
Other Facts about Women with IBS
- 50% of women who see a gynecologist for abdominal pain also have IBS.
- Women who have IBS are more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
- Women with IBS are three times more likely to get a hysterectomy than women without the condition, although hysterectomy and tubal litigation do not help alleviate IBS
- Many women report that pregnancy relieves their IBS symptoms
- Birth control pills do not seem to affect IBS
- 51% of women with IBS have been sexually or physically abused
There are many different treatment options available for IBS. Every individual is different, so some treatments may work better than others for you.
The #1 recommendation for people with IBS is to change their diet. There are many foods that can trigger an IBS attack. The most common are
- Spicy foods
- Fatty foods
- Dairy products
Many people find that adding sources of soluble fiber to their diet will alleviate their symptoms. Fruits and vegetables, especially kiwi fruit, are high in soluble fiber.
A healthy exercise plan can help relieve depression and anxiety, which contribute to IBS.