Women More Likely than Men to Suffer from GI Issues

Being a woman comes with its own unique set of struggles, but did you know that digestive issues could be one of them? Nearly 60 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic gastrointestinal conditions each year, and new research indicates that women are nearly twice as likely to be affected by these issues as men.

The digital healthcare company Amino examined two years of data from more than 4.7 million individuals. They found that women are:

  • 2.9 times more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • 2.3 times more likely to have Celiac disease
  • 2.1 times more likely to develop gallstones
  • 1.5 times more likely to have acid reflux
  • 1.2 times more likely to have Crohn’s disease

Because these conditions vary greatly, experts have yet to identify one cause that would fully explain why women are at higher risk than men. However, they suspect that hormones could play a role. For example, estrogen is known to elevate cholesterol levels in bile which slows gallbladder movement. This could contribute to a higher incidence of gallstones in women. Maneesh Singh, M.D. explained in Amino’s release, “There is some evidence to support a slight female predominance in a disease such as Crohn's, for instance, and this could be attributed to hormone changes" (Source: Shape).

Another possible explanation, Amino suggests, is simply that women are more likely than men to see a doctor for routine examinations. A Kaiser Women’s Health survey found that 91 percent of women claimed to have seen a doctor within the last two years. Only 75 percent of men reported the same. Patients who maintain routine medical visits are more likely to schedule recommended screening services, which could further explain why women have a higher rate of diagnosis.

While women may be at higher risk for chronic gastrointestinal conditions, both men and women should be equally diligent in seeking medical treatment for their digestive symptoms. Non-invasive screening techniques and improved treatments make it easier than ever to diagnose and treat a wide variety of digestive conditions. The sooner you see a doctor, the better your chances of getting your symptoms under control and enjoying your life to the fullest.