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Why women have more digestive problems than men

We all run into gut problems. However, a lot of guys can eat and drink everything in sight while a woman doing the same might feel bloated, irregular, and sick to her stomach. Ann Wairimu tells you why

1. Hormonal problem

Men’s higher levels of testosterone mean they have a strong abdominal wall, so their bowel is better held in place. Women, however, have a weaker abdominal wall due to their hormones, so the bowels aren’t so contained, causing bloating.

Hormonal fluctuations during a woman’s monthly cycle are a common trigger for bloating. Add in the fluctuating levels of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which also affect the digestive tract, and bloating is definitely more of an issue for women.

2. Painkillers to sooth cramps are to blame

Women take more nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, typically to soothe cramps and treat chronic pain. When you down them too often, the drugs can irritate the stomach lining, which may lead to ulcers.

3. Women have longer colon

Women have a longer colon than men do – on average around 10cm longer – perhaps to allow them to absorb more water or fluid during childbearing. What that extra length in the colon does is create this redundancy, these sort of extra twists and turns, and that’s why women are so much more bloated and constipated than their male counterparts.

4. The short anal canal

At the end of the rectum, we have the anal sphincter, which is the muscle that allows us to delay moving our bowels until we find an appropriate place, such as a washroom. When physicians evaluate the function of the anal sphincter, they measure squeeze pressure – how firmly the patient can squeeze the muscle shut.

Women have less squeeze pressure than men. The anal canal (the passage from the opening to the rectum) is shorter in women and the length of both the sphincter and area of highest pressure is also shorter in women. Men tolerate more volume in the rectal area.

5. Shape of pelvis

Because women are round and men are narrow, more of a woman’s colon drops down into the pelvis because the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes are taking up space above it – whereas men simply have to make room for the prostate.

6. Weak pelvic floor

Childbirth and aging can cause weak pelvic floor, which as a result causes constipation. Pelvic floor muscles act as a sling and hold up abdominal organs. Three important organs (bladder, rectum and vagina) exit through the pelvic floor and can be caught up in problems if these pelvic muscles do not relax when we need them to do so, that is, during urination, defecation or sexual function.

7. Pregnancy

Pregnancy is associated with nausea, which occurs early in the pregnancy. This effect may result from a slowing of stomach emptying, beyond what is seen normally in women. One of the pregnancy hormones, progesterone, is associated with delaying muscle contraction, and it is believed that this is a major cause of the nausea seen with pregnancy.

Women also experience heartburn during pregnancy. This seems to be caused by the increasing levels of progesterone during pregnancy as well as the increasing size of the baby. It is most prominent during the second half of the pregnancy. Constipation is common for similar reasons.

8. Childbirth complications

Additionally, the muscle coordinating moving one’s bowels can be damaged by a tear during childbirth, leading to possible long-term problems. Therefore, it is important for women to perform Kegel exercises, which help to strengthen this area, and to discuss any concerns with their obstetrician.


9. Women are more stressed out

Stress can lead to super annoying digestion issues. If you’re feeling bloated or suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the problem might not be what you’re eating, but how you feel when you’re eating it. Women are more stressed out than men and it presents itself in the stomach.

10. The embarrass- ment factor

Another issue for women with not-so-great gut health is the shame associated with it. Men simply don’t care as much. Society puts less pressure on them. Men can make fart jokes without being criticised as ill mannered. Common problems with women are anxiety and worries about everything they put their hands on which upsets their stomachs and create digestive problems.

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