Do you suffer from bloating, heartburn, gas or stomach pain? Everyone experiences these digestive difficulties occasionally, some more frequently than others especially if you’re a woman. These common gastrointestinal conditions and others affect both men and women, but some are more common among just women.
- Irritable Bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder that causes the digestion process to move too quickly (diarrhea) or too slowly (constipation). Up to 20 percent of adults have it, the majority of them young women. Symptoms include frequent stomach cramping, gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. IBS has been linked to depression, bacterial infections and even post-traumatic stress disorder. It can be treated with exercise, diet adjustments, and psychotherapy.
- Gallstones – Gallstones are another common digestive problem that women develop more often than men. They are crystal-like pieces, made of hardened cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder. This process occurs if bile contains too much cholesterol or if the gallbladder doesn’t empty completely or often enough. Ranging in size, from very small to as large as a golf ball, gallstones can cause multiple symptoms including right upper abdominal pain after eating (sometimes severe), nausea or vomiting, fever, yellowish skin or eyes and clay-colored stool. Some people develop gallstones and never know because they are asymptomatic.
- Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining that can lead to nausea, vomiting, or pain, and affects 25 percent of Americans. Overuse of medications such as ibuprofen is a risk factor as well as heavy drinking. Gastritis can be chronic or short-term, and all sufferers are advised to eliminate common risk factors.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is the technical name for good old-fashioned heartburn. In the past decade, as the American diet has changed to include more processed foods, the rates of GERD have skyrocketed more than 50 percent. It now affects more than 20 percent of adults. If you suffer from GERD, you need to avoid foods that are high in fat and acidic. If you’re overweight, that can also contribute to symptoms. Certain prescription medications can have negative effects as well.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a broad umbrella term for myriad chronic conditions, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which involve inflammation and immunity problems. It is rising fast among women and currently affects roughly 1.4 million people. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, fever, and pain. Genetics may play a role, as do smoking and a poor diet. There’s no easy cure, but lifestyle changes and prescription medications can offer relief.