A good digestive system indicates that you have regular bowel movements, don’t feel bloated, gassy, nauseous or constipated frequently or fall sick regularly. However, this can vary in men and women. Evidence suggests that women suffer from digestive problems more than men because of various reasons. These reasons include slow movement of food during the digestion process as well as a longer colon (at least 8 cm longer) than men. In addition, female hormones don’t just affect their mood but also their gut.
In this article, we will decode why women’s gut health is comparatively more delicate than men and how probiotics might be the answer for this.
Common digestive problems (mostly ones faced by women)
Women usually face the following digestive problems:
IBS or irritable bowel syndrome: IBS is a common digestive problem in women that affects the large intestine. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloating, abnormal stools or constipation.
Gastritis: This condition occurs when the stomach lining is inflamed and leads to symptoms such as indigestion, abdominal pain, consistent burning feeling and loss of appetite.
Bloating: Bloating can occur due to either of the above-mentioned conditions or occur without these as well. Frequent bloating despite eating a small portion of food does not signal towards a healthy gut.
GERD: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a long-term condition where the stomach acid comes up into the oesophagus. Symptoms include abdominal pain especially after eating something or lying down.
Age and female gut health
With the change in age, some women find their digestive health patterns to change too. Understanding which digestive problems could plague a woman’s gut health, that too at certain age-led time periods may give her the power to make healthy changes to handle her digestive health issues in a better way.
From 16 to 40 years: As young women move out of adolescence and the menstrual cycle gets more regular, some women may experience constipation or loose bowel movements, with change in hormonal levels. This can also be related to other factors like diet, stress or/and medications. Women who frequently suffer from IBS seem to have severe symptoms related to IBS around their menstrual cycles.
40 years and above: When it comes to the menopause stage, some women may experience changes in digestive health which include slow bowel movement and frequent complaints of bloating.
60 years and above: When it comes to the post-menopausal phase, some women come across severe digestive issues due to use of prolonged medications, hormonal changes and trouble absorbing certain nutrients due to weakening of muscles and tissues.
Managing digestive issues throughout the lifespan is more or less the same as following a good diet plan and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Signs that women shouldn’t ignore when it comes to their digestive health:
- If women suffer from the following signs and symptoms, they should immediately talk to their doctor or start a remedial plan
- Frequent loose stools after eating food
- Feeling nauseous after 30-45 minutes of eating food
- Regular loss of appetite
- Constant feeling of being bloated or feeling of fullness (even when no food has been consumed in the past hour)
- Intense heartburn that is extremely uncomfortable
Triggering factors leading to digestive problems
Some triggering factors leading to digestive problems in women include:
- Food intolerances such as gluten or lactose
- Hormonal problems
- Bad eating habits
- Irregular/ no exercising routine
- Excessive consumption of alcohol or smoking
- Insufficient consumption of probiotics
When should you seek the doctor’s help?
Women should seek doctor’s help when symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, bloating, acid reflux, constipation or loose stools do not subside. Or even if the patient has not consumed any food or drink and still suffers from these symptoms.
Please note, do not self-medicate as it may worsen your condition. If you consistently feel uncomfortable because of the above-mentioned symptoms, immediately seek medical attention.
5 preventive measures/lifestyle changes every woman can seek to make
To stay clear from digestive problems, women can make the following lifestyle changes as well as take preventive measures:
- Consume probiotics in sufficient quantities to support gut health. If there is an imbalance in the bacteria of your gut flora, then your digestive system will act out every time you eat any food (no matter how harmless it may seem).
- Limiting consumption of too spicy, fried, salty or sweet food items. When you consume these in a high quantity, it tends to affect your gut flora by weakening its ability to ward off bad bacteria. In addition, your digestive system becomes addicted to these foods leading to other health problems such as hypertension or diabetes.
- Exercising regularly can have a positive effect on your digestive problem. It can help get rid of bloating or gas and promote healthy digestion.
- Practicing meditation to decrease the cortisol levels in your body. Stress can only worsen digestive problems and sometimes even give rise to them. Therefore, relaxing your mind when possible is recommended.
- Reducing or eliminating alcohol and tobacco consumption can increase the good bacteria in your gut. This goes a long way in strengthening the immunity of your digestive system overtime.
How probiotics could be a good choice for your gut
Your gut flora consists of hundreds of bacteria that constantly work in digesting the food you consume. Therefore, this gut flora should be fed essential nutrients for it to remain healthy. To do so, prebiotics are the best way to maintain a healthy gut and ultimately a functional digestive system. Your gut plays a big role in how other systems in your body respond to the food you eat. Hence, it is necessary to consume gut-friendly food such as prebiotics and probiotics.
How probiotics could be a good choice for your hair & skin
Probiotics along with promoting good gut health which helps improve a body’s immunity, also has other benefits for hair and skin wellbeing.
In the context of the skin too, probiotics have shown benefits when it comes to skin health by reducing inflammation which helps the skin to remain healthy avoiding any further skin conditions like acne, Eczema, psoriasis amongst others. They help combat skin inflammation, which is a very common reaction to stress.
Probiotics also go on to reduce the inflammation on your scalp, provide nourishment to hair follicles which help strengthen the hair and aids in preventing hair fall.
To summarise, probiotics are live yeast and bacteria that naturally reside in the human body. If their balance goes off due to a bad bacteria or virus invasion, the gut needs to be reset with the help of probiotics found in natural foods and supplements. Natural sources of probiotics include yoghurt, buttermilk, sourdough bread, cottage cheese, fruits such as bananas and pickles. You can also opt for medicinal probiotic supplements which contain Lactobacillus plantarum. These are extremely useful when you’re unable to consume natural probiotic foods in sufficient quantities.
Probiotics and signs women need to know while choosing them
It is recommended that when choosing a probiotic, look for probiotic products with Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium or Saccharomyces boulardii, some of the most researched probiotics. This is because for a healthy gut, the bacteria/yeast in it needs to feed on foods that promote its longevity and strength to ward off viruses and infections.
For example, when choosing a medicinal supplement, a Probiotic containing Lactobacillus plantarum is one product you can opt for. Since it is a doctor-backed probiotic, it will come in handy especially if you suffer from digestive problems.
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