As many as 1 in 5 Australian’s will develop IBS at some point in their life, making it the most common gastrointestinal disorder. It can be incredibly debilitating with symptoms that include diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating and excess wind. A topic which has been of interest in the world of research is the role gender plays in the development of IBS. So… is IBS more common in women or men?
IBS in Women vs Men
Research shows that IBS is twice as common in women as it is men. IBS most commonly occurs in women from late teens to mid-forties. Additionally, constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C) is more common in women than men. In contrast, diarrhoea-predominant IBS (IBS-D) is more common in men than women. For men, IBS most commonly occurs from the age of 20 through to 70.
Reasons behind gender differences
Whilst research is still in it’s early days, there are a few proposed reasons behind why IBS is more common in women. One of the key reasons appears to be sex hormones. Studies show sex hormones are associated with the regulation of the gut-brain-axis, stress response, intestinal barrier function and gut microbiota (gut bacteria). Additionally, IBS symptoms often worsen during menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and hormone replacement therapy. This further suggests that there is a relationship between IBS and hormone status. If you’re interested in more info, check out our articles on IBS and ‘that time of the month’ and pregnancy.
Another reason why IBS is more common in women than in men is the belief that women are more likely to seek medical advice for IBS than men, meaning men may be under-reporting IBS symptoms. There are also far fewer men who participate in clinical research studies than women. More research is certainly required on the topic, particularly regarding the role of male hormones and IBS.
- Kim YS, Kim N. Sex-gender differences in irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility. 2018 Oct;24(4):544.
- Meleine M, Matricon J. Gender-related differences in irritable bowel syndrome: potential mechanisms of sex hormones. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG. 2014 Jun 14;20(22):6725.
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