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Women more likely to suffer from GI pain than men – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 5/12/2015

OGDEN - Women are more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal problems than men.

A team of researchers at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine recently found that although women are more likely to seek medical help for their problems than men, the GI system behaves differently in women because of sex-related features in the brain. That’s because nerve cells that control the movement of food through the intestines are more sluggish in response to brain inputs in women.

“Women are more likely to develop gastrointestinal disorder than men, but very little research has been done to investigate the reasons behind this,” said researcher Tanja Babic. “Females also show differences in brain structure and function compared to males, including higher levels of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter.”

According to, women are five times as likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome and twice as likely to develop gallstones than men. Other GI disorders occur equally in both sexes, but they still affect women in unique ways. Inflammatory bowel disease, for example, may be worse on women with irregular menstrual periods. Heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux is common during pregnancy and women with celiac disease seem to be more prone to miscarriage and infertility issues. Problems such as migraines, diabetes and fibromyalgia can also complicate these issues.

Kerry Reynolds, a family practice and gastroenterology physician assistant at Ogden Clinic, said there are several things people can do to lower the risk of irritable bowel syndrome. Excluding gas-producing foods from the diet is a good start. These would include beans, onions, celery, carrots, raisins, bananas, apricots, prunes, Brussel sprouts, wheat germ, pretzels, bagels, alcohol and caffeine. You can also consider a trial of lactose avoidance, consider food allergy testing, take in adequate fiber and maintain good physical activity.

If you suffer from reflux disease, consider excluding coffee, tea, soda, spicy foods and chocolate from your diet. Raise the head of your bed a few inches, don’t go to sleep on a full stomach, lose weight and see your doctor about acid reducing medication.