When it comes to digestive health, not all people are going to experience and exhibit GI troubles in the same manner. Not only do some gastrointestinal diseases and discomforts differ from person to person, they also differ between the sexes. Although the male and female gastrointestinal tract are very similar, they can exhibit very different symptoms, even with the same disease.
Where Are The Major Differences?
The differences start at the top of the digestive tract in the esophagus. When you swallow food, it passes through the esophagus, through a small opening, and into the stomach. The esophagus has essentially a small door, which is what allows food to pass into the stomach. In women, that door tends to close with more force than those of men. This can cause a different balance of stomach acid in men versus women, meaning that women have a little extra protection in their esophagus. It can also cause less damage to the esophagus in the long run.
Further down the digestive tract, women may experience differences in the way their stomachs behave. Typically, women’s stomachs empty slower than men’s, which is why they have more frequent heartburn and nausea. Gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach, is also more common in women.
Similar to the slower emptying stomach, women also experience slower emptying of the large intestines, especially once they get older. This can lead to constipation, and on the other end of the spectrum, an inability to hold bowel movements, making the need to use the restroom more urgent and difficult to ignore than their male counterparts. IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) are both more prevalent in women, and colon cancer is the number 3 cancer in women in the US.
Other Organs: The Gallbladder, Liver, And Small Intestine
Women are more prone to gallstones than men due to the fact that they have a slower emptying gallbladder. This can lead to gallbladder disease. Since men and women differ hormonally, there is a different enzyme produced by the body that can affect the liver and small intestine. They work to break down medications, altering the effects of the drugs.
What’s The Best Way To Keep A Healthy GI Tract?
While there’s no fool-proof guarantee to keeping a healthy digestive symptom, in men or women, one of the best things you can do for your body is to eat a healthy diet, stay at a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and have regular medical checkups. Your diet should consist of whole grains, lean protein, fresh fruit, and veggies, and should remain low in processed meats or high-fat foods. Regarding your regular exams, you should consult with one of the GI Associates team to determine what you might need. For instance, if you’re approaching 50, it’s time to schedule a colonoscopy. We treat a whole host of symptoms as well, so if you find yourself experiencing abdominal pain, frequent heartburn, a change in your bowel habits, or any other discomfort regarding digestion, make an appointment today.