IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that causes repeated episodes of severe abdominal cramps, sharp or radiating pain, along with chronic constipation, frequent bouts of diarrhoea, or both. IBS can also be manifested by bloating, burning feeling in the stomach, gas, mucus in the stool, and the feeling of an incomplete bowel movement.
The global prevalence of IBS is estimated to be 11.2%, and it is the most common functional gastrointestinal disease.
The IBS stats do vary from country to country, but it looks like on average 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with IBS are women, so out of whole IBS – affected population worldwide men make approximately a quarter of those 11.2%.
But then stats point out another interesting detail – men are 50% less likely to go to doctor and complain about their symptoms. So, it is not exactly clear how many men out there are suffering in silence and keeping their condition a secret even from their loved ones. Additionally, the IBS symptoms may vary from person to person and their individual experience and/or severity of the symptoms may postpone the correct diagnosis.
IBS symptoms in Men
There are no anatomical differences between male and female intestines, but there are some differences in the ways men and women experience IBS. For example, men are more likely to have problems with diarrhoea and frequent stools, and less likely to experience pain. Doctors and researchers believe it might be due to the male hormones which make men less sensitive to intestinal pain.
Androgens are natural steroids, and testosterone is an androgen. Research has indicated that higher levels of androgens lower a person’s risk of developing a chronic pain disorder and that testosterone, in particular, may serve as a natural pain reliever. This might play into why pain is a predominant symptom of IBS in women, but not in men, and can partially explain why women report IBS symptoms more often than men.
Men also tend to experience more problems communicating about their symptoms than women and are less likely to seek medical attention than women are. So, because women are more likely to complain and do something about their symptoms, it might be a prevailing myth that IBS affects more women but we will definitely need more time to know for sure. Until recently researchers and doctors alike also have been focusing primarily on how the condition affects women than on how it affects men. Consequently, men often are excluded from studies or there are too few of them to gather much statistically significant information.
Some studies show that women with IBS are more likely to experience hard stools and bloating, while men are more likely to experience IBS with predominant diarrhoea, but different symptoms do affect quality of life on both sides similarly – both sexes suffer with low self-esteem and poor body image, avoid intimacy often and hide their condition from partners; their social life and work is affected; they avoid experimenting with food and/or have to keep strict diet patterns.
Are you an IBS sufferer? Have you been diagnosed? Please drop us a line to tell us about symptoms you experience and challenges you are facing. We would love to hear from you!