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IBS Awareness Month: How IBS Affects Women’s Lives

IBS Awareness Month: How IBS Affects Women’s Lives


IBS Awareness Month: How IBS Affects Women’s Lives

In recognition of IBS Awareness Month this April, I’m pleased to share insights into the unique effects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) on women, focusing on symptoms and management strategies.

Understanding IBS: A Brief Overview

IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder affecting millions globally, causing abdominal pain, bloating, and bowel changes. It is grouped in the family of functional gastrointestinal disorders, which are defined by abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habits with no detectable organic disease. Factors like diet, stress, and hormonal fluctuations contribute to its development and, often, exacerbation. Approximately 10–15% of the global population suffers from IBS.

According to a 2002 article published in the Journal of Gender Specific Medicine, women in the U.S. are approximately twice as likely as men to seek medical attention for IBS. As with many health conditions, women are at a higher risk for IBS, and understanding the proper course of treatment unique to women’s needs is crucial.

How is IBS different for women?

Due to hormonal differences, IBS affects women differently than it does men. According to research, men appear to be more likely to have IBS that is characterized by diarrhea, while women are more likely to have IBS that is characterized by constipation and bloating. Women are also more likely to suffer from comorbid diseases such as chronic pelvic pain syndromes and fibromyalgia, as well as more fatigue, depression, anxiety and lower quality of life than male IBS patients.

Recognizing Symptoms: Signs of IBS in Women

Recognizing the signs of IBS enables prompt diagnosis and effective management. Common symptoms in women include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, often relieved by bowel movements
  • Nausea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or alternating between the two
  • Urgency or a feeling of incomplete bowel movements
  • Fatigue and disrupted sleep patterns

IBS Across Different Ages: A Woman’s Journey

Women of all ages can suffer from IBS, which causes a variety of symptoms that may have a major influence on day-to-day living. With age, these symptoms often change due to hormonal fluctuations variance, activity levels, and other individual variables.

Younger women often experience symptoms that are comparable to those of men, such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain, with a predominance of diarrhea symptoms. These symptoms might, in turn, cause fatigue and sleep problems by disrupting routine, leading to mental and physical challenges as they negotiate a variety of social, professional, and educational settings.

Managing IBS becomes even more challenging as menopause often brings about changes in symptom presentation, with constipation-predominant symptoms becoming more common.

When to Seek Medical Attention

It’s necessary that you connect with a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing symptoms of IBS that are persistent. While IBS does not result in long term harm to the digestive system, if left untreated, it can have a major negative impact on quality of life. During your appointment, your doctor will perform a thorough evaluation, which may include:

  • Reviewing your medical history and symptoms
  • Conducting a physical examination
  • Ordering diagnostic tests such as blood work or imaging studies to rule out other conditions

During your visit, your doctor will work collaboratively with you to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs. This may include dietary modifications, stress management techniques, and medication to deal with the symptoms. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and adequate sleep can complement medical interventions and promote overall well-being.

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey. At Eileen West, MD and Associates, I and my staff are here to provide compassionate care and guidance for every member. Together, we can navigate the challenges of IBS and embrace a future of improved health and vitality.

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Addressing gastrointestinal health concerns like IBS is an example of the comprehensive approach Dr. West takes to working with members of our concierge internal medicine practice. Give us a call at 571-999-9378 if you’re a current member and would like help with this issue or are interested in becoming a member.

Eileen West, MD, FACP, NCMP, CCD

Leading the way in women's healthcare is renowned board-certified internal medicine doctor Dr. Eileen West. She has over 20 years of experience and is recognized for her expertise in menopause, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease prevention. Her excellence-driven compassionate approach, which is associated with the American College of Physicians, improves the lives of her patients by putting a strong emphasis on their overall well-being.

Location: Fairfax, Virginia

Areas of Expertise: Women's Health, Menopause Management, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Osteoporosis Diagnosis and Treatment.


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