Too Tense to Poop? It Happens to a Lot of Women


Women are for likely to get irritable bowel syndrome than men. No one is sure why. Hitoshi Nishimura/Getty Images
Women are for likely to get irritable bowel syndrome than men. No one is sure why. Hitoshi Nishimura/Getty Images

Which came first: Women's anxious stomachs or anxious brains? That's the question "Stuff Mom Never Told You" co-host Cristen Conger asks in her video "Are Women Too Stressed to Poop?"

It may surprise you to learn that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as men. IBS is a chronic (ongoing) condition where you experience diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramping and bloating. The symptoms have to last at least three months before you can be diagnosed with this disorder — and it's one of the most common conditions in the U.S. Some 20 percent of Americans are diagnosed with IBS, and women are three times as likely to experience constipation as men.

So why does IBS affect women so much more? Doctors don't really know, but they believe it may have something to do with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone since the symptoms fluctuate over a woman's menstrual cycle. Some researchers think it might have something to do with our brains since 50-90 percent of people with IBS also deal with psychiatric disorders like generalized anxiety disorder and clinical depression.

Our enteric nervous system connects our brains to our bellies via 100 million nerve cells that run from the esophagus to the anus. That's why IBS tends to spike when we're stressed — and women are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depressive disorders than men. It also explains why antidepressants, as well as relaxation techniques, can help soothe our stomachs.

Want to learn more about women and poop? Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin from Stuff Mom Never Told You have you covered. You can watch the video above, listen to this podcast or head on over to their site.   



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