Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is the collective term for numerous symptoms affecting an individual. It is a chronic ailment that affects the gastrointestinal system of the individual. IBS is characterized by three predominant symptoms in both men and women, namely
- Severe pain and spasms in the abdomen
- Changes in the bowel movement patterns
In general, more women are diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome than men every year all over the world. In western countries, the ratio between men and women suffering from this chronic disease is 1:3. In women, a close connection has been observed between their gastrointestinal disorders and menstrual cycles. Therefore, the medications and treatments prescribed by the doctors are gender-specific due to some IBS symptoms in females which the men with Irritable Bowel Syndrome don’t have to face in their daily lives
SYMPTOMS OF IBS COMMONLY OBSERVED IN WOMEN
The study of symptoms, causes, and consequences of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is incomplete with considering the sex-gender aspect of it. In fact, according to medical research, the sex-gender factors play a very important role when it comes to determining the subtype of IBS the individual is suffering from as well as the efficiency of the medicine prescribed to them by the doctor. The most common symptoms of IBS in women are listed below:
- CHRONIC CONSTIPATION
Irritable Bowel Syndrome associated with constipation is seen to be more prevalent in women. This subtype is also referred to as IBS-C commonly. Constipation is marked with difficulty in passing stools due to uncoordinated bowel movements inside the large intestine. In this case, the movement is too slow and therefore the fecal matter stays inside the track for a longer time absorbing water and becoming turgid. Constipation gives rise to sharp abdominal pains as well as gas and bloating in women.
Diarrhea or D-type IBS is more commonly found in men. But several women across the world have reported suffering from IBS-associated diarrhea especially right before the onset of their menstrual cycles. In this case, the movement of bowels inside the tract is heavily accelerated and an urgency to use the toilet is frequently experienced. This is often unmanageable and therefore leads to a lot of stress and anxiety.
- GAS AND BLOATING
This symptom can get very painful with incessant pain in the abdomen due to the increase and retention of gas in the intestines. This is also a sign of menstrual onset. Bloating when flared up can cause additional stress along with period cramps. Gynecological disorders faced by women can worsen the distress associated with pain. Women post menopause have also reported a rise in cases of bloating.
- INVOLUNTARY URINATION
Involuntary urination is one of the main symptoms of IBS manifested in women. Also, IBS makes women more susceptible to urine infections, uncontrollable urge to urinate, increase in the urgency of urination especially at night, and burning sensation or pain while passing urine.
- RISK OF PROLAPSING OF THE PELVIC ORGANS
Women house some very important organs in the pelvic region in addition to the intestines and excretory apparatus like the urethra. The important organ referred to herein women is the entire reproductive system consisting of the uterus and the ovaries. Prolapsing of an organ means weakening of the muscles and the tissues that keep the pelvic organs together in place. Prolapse is commonly observed in the vagina, the uterus, the rectum, and the urethra.
- RECURRING PELVIC PAIN
Long-lasting agonizing pain in the pelvic region is one of the most critical symptoms of IBS in females due to swelling and considerable damage in the gastrointestinal tract due to frequent changes in bowel movements. This pain multiplies when combined with the usual spasms in the abdomen in the form of menstrual cramps and has a debilitating effect on the woman.
- ISSUES RELATED TO REPRODUCTIVE AND MENSTRUAL HEALTH
Irritable Bowel Syndrome comes in the way of the normal sexual and reproductive functions carried out by the female body. Hormonal disbalances are caused which in turn lead to several problems in the menstrual cycle like irregular periods, absence of periods, or very heavy periods. In most cases, the periods are reported to be heavier and more painful for women diagnosed with IBS.
- INTENSE FATIGUE
Fatigue is a symptom common to both men and women suffering from IBS. Women are reportedly more fatigued due to the gynecological factors that intensify the symptoms. More often than not it leads to improper sleep and night and therefore the body is tired the next day. The level of fatigue one experiences depends upon the severity of the symptoms of IBS.
- STRESS AND ANXIETY
Psychological disorders like anxiety and depression are also found more in women than in men. Experts have established that IBS is connected to these issues due to the physiological sex-gender-based differences in how IBS affects an individual. Men too are heavily affected with mental health issues due to IBS but shy away from admitting it openly.
HOW CAN WOMEN DEAL WITH IBS ?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome cannot be cured but managed over time by
- Adapting to a healthier diet
- Incorporation of exercise and physical activity in day to day life
- Keeping stress levels in check
- Using symptom specific medication prescribed by the doctor
There exists a considerable overlap between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the Gynaecological disorders that women have to put up with. Women with IBS report more cases of menstrual distress like cramping, heavy menstrual bleeding during periods in addition to premenstrual syndrome. On the other hand, endometriosis has been reported to have flared up the IBS symptoms in women. The relationship between the menstrual cycle and IBS is not established and therefore is an area of research.