Among patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), women experience poorer quality of life than men. Researcher Ida Björkman explained, “Even if the similarities are larger than the differences, there is a pattern of differences between men and women with IBS.”
Nearly 10 to 15 percent of the population lives with IBS, which is characterized by pain, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and swelling. Some patients may not seek help for their syndrome either because their symptoms are not that severe or because they are embarrassed to discuss them, even with their doctor. “You have gas, your stomach swells, you don’t know what to wear and think ‘I look so fat’. All of this affects women’s quality of life more than the men’s,” added Björkman.
Her study looks at over 500 IBS patients with medium to severe symptoms. Follow-up interviews clearly demonstrate that IBS affects women and men differently.
“The gastrointestinal symptoms are associated with many taboos, which were harder for the women to handle. The men had a more relaxed attitude to their symptoms. We also already know that stress worsens IBS. The men described work and family finances as stress factors, while the women felt that they did double work and had a second shift of household work when they came home from work. This negative stress can affect the stomach in both sexes and the problems worsen,” Björkman explained.
Björkman suggests that there needs to be a greater partnership between care providers and patients when addressing the individual’s life situations in order to improve quality of life.
Mindful meditation lowers IBS symptoms in women
Studies have established a strong link between stress and your gut. Stress can disrupt your digestive system and even cause heartburn. Reducing stress may give you the relief you need when it comes to any stomach problems you may be having.
One study from the University of North Carolina – School of Medicine examined the relationship between meditation and the stomach. Researchers looked at patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For the study, 75 women were assigned to either a group for mindfulness-based stress reduction or a support group with other IBS patients. The patients attended weekly meetings and a half-day retreat.
After an eight-week period, IBS symptoms reduced for those in the mindfulness-based stress reduction group, compared to those in the support group. In fact, those who experienced stress reduction had symptoms drop by 26.4 percent, in comparison to only 6.2 percent.
Better yet, researchers found that the reduction of symptoms lasted well after the study was over – past three months. Those who were in the mindfulness group still experienced a reduction in symptoms by 38.2 percent, compared to 11.8 percent in the support group.