Women: Your Biggest Problems with Digestion

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The uncomfortable and often embarrassing symptoms associated with digestive difficulties are not just a man’s problem. Many women struggle as well.

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 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 contribute to symptoms as well. Certain prescription medications can have negative effects as well.

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.

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.