Talk about crappy news. A new study from consumer healthcare platform Amino found that women are 1.6 times more likely to suffer from common GI conditions than men. Amino looked at everyone in their database who had been diagnosed with at least one of seven gut problems between January 2014 and December 2015. What they found: Women were more likely than men to be diagnosed with six of them (the only one men got more was colon cancer). And if you have one, you’re at increased odds for being diagnosed with other digestive issues, the study found. Here’s how many women were affected by each condition—and tips on how to keep symptoms at bay.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Otherwise known as good old acid reflux, GERD affected nearly 60 percent of women in the study. Fatty and acidic foods like coffee can cause GERD’s telltale symptoms—nausea and a sharp pain behind the breastbone—so if you feel the burn often, try limiting these eats or cutting them out altogether. Popping OTC meds and eating smaller, more frequent meals can help, too.
Gallstones: Nearly 70 percent of the women in the study reported having “stones,” which are actually solidified bits of cholesterol. If one blocks the exit to your gallbladder’s bile ducts, you’ll know it: The dullpain that sits right below the rib cage on your right side will wax and wane for a few hours, then becomes excruciating. If an ultrasound shows you have them, your doc will likely need to surgically remove your gallbladder. To thwart them in the first place, load your plate with soluble fiber. One study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that, for every extra 5 grams you eat (good sources include whole grains, nuts, and the skins of fruits like apples and tomatoes), your gallstone risk drops by 10 percent.
Ulcerative Colitis: 54 percent of women in the survey reported being diagnosed with this form of inflammatory bowel disease, which causes bacteria in the bowel to provoke the immune system to attack it. Cue abdominal cramping, bloody diarrhea, and urgency (a.k.a. the need to poop right now), and, over time, ulcers in the colon that can lead to colon cancer. There’s no way to prevent it, but if you’re diagnosed, avoiding milk and spicy eats can decrease symptoms and lessen flare-ups.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): This chronic disorder causesdigestion to either move too quickly (um, diarrhea) or too slowly (ugh,constipation). Nearly 75 percent of women in the survey had IBS, which was three times the number of men. Eliminating trigger foods (frequent offenders include booze, fatty foods, and dairy products) can ease symptoms like cramping, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation; if it doesn’t, your M.D. can prescribe meds.
Crohn’s Disease: Docs aren’t quite sure what triggers this disease, which hit 55 percent of the surveyed women. One theory: A viral or bacterial infection can cause long-term inflammation in the intestine, which can lead to diarrhea, gut pain, and even skin, joint, and eye problems. Meds can help with symptoms, as can lifestyle changes, likequitting smoking and tweaking your diet.
Celiac Disease: Gluten intolerance was a problem for a whopping 70 percent of women in the study and only 30 percent of men. That number could soon be higher, as studies show celiac disease is on the rise. If a blood test shows your body and gluten don’t mix, you’ll need to jump on the no-bread bandwagon—that means no wheat pasta or cookies and carefully reading labels (gluten can hide in unexpected foods like salad dressing). But take heart: There are plenty of delish meals that are naturally sans gluten.