Women & Constipation
WHAT IS CONSTIPATION?
Constipation is commonly characterized as:
- Having fewer than three bowel movements per week
- Passing hard, dry, and difficult to expel stool
- Painful bowel movements
- Unable to completely void stool from your rectum
Constipation can be experienced occasionally, or it can become chronic.
WHAT CAUSES CONSTIPATION?
The most frequent causes of constipation are*
– Poor eating habits:
- Lack of fiber from natural sources (vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and legumes)
- Consumption of too many processed foods
- Insufficient intake of water (many experts recommend 8 glasses daily)
- Inadequate and not thorough chewing of food
– Poor physical health:
- Lack of physical exercise
- Excessive amounts of travel
- High anxiety and/or stress
– Other possible causes:
- Lazy Bowel Syndrome (the muscles in your colon slow down, leaving you constipated)
- Atypical colon (too lengthy or too large, prevalent in women)
WHAT WE RECOMMEND IN ADDITION TO DIGESTLIVE*
- Drink a glass of water every morning on an empty stomach.
- Go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet each morning at a fixed time, even if you don’t need to go.
- When sitting on the toilet, raise your feet on a small stool, or use a stack of big books. This facilitates abdominal contractions.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables (avoid potatoes).
- Chew your food slowly.
- Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
- Take daily walks, even for a short distance.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
HOW DOES CONSTIPATION AFFECT WOMEN DIFFERENTLY FROM MEN?
"Women are more likely than men to be constipated."- Dr. Judy Nee, from Harvard Medical School
The female body differs in many ways from her male counterparts. For this reason, we are more susceptible to irregular and difficult bowel movements. The most significant factors that impact women’s susceptibility to constipation relate to childbearing, estrogen and progesterone hormones, and the female reproductive organs.
There are differences in the physiological makeup of men and women too. For instance, the female colon is 10 centimeters longer than that of a man. It also is narrower, resulting in a slower transit time for the digestion of food. This frequently results in more difficult bowel movements.
But our female-specific concerns don’t stop there. The second most common cancer among women is colorectal cancer (colon cancer). Dyssynergic Defecation (constipation due to problems with the nerves and muscles in the pelvic floor), and fecal incontinence (inability to control leakage of bowels), are serious conditions more commonly found in women than men.
It is time to destigmatize the challenges we face with our digestive system. We need help tailored to the specific needs of women and this is where DigestLive plays such an important role in our health.
Female Differentiating Factors:
- Women possess a colon that is 10 centimeters longer than their male counterparts.
- The longer female colon sits deeper inside of the pelvis, making women more prone to bloating and GI discomfort.
- High levels of progesterone present within the ovaries, often during the period of ovulation, result in slower digestion and therefore constipation.
- The female abdominal wall does not sit snugly, due to gender specific hormones, resulting in more loosely-connected organs within her body.
- Chronic constipation is more commonly found in women and progressively worsens with age.
- For women 65 years old and older, the likelihood of suffering from constipation is 26% while for men it is 16%. The likelihood increases to 34% for women 84 years and older whereas for men it increases to 26%.
- It takes 47 hours on average for food to travel through a woman’s large intestine, and 33 hours on average to travel through a man’s large intestine.
- The different mixture of hormones produced during and after pregnancy affects the female digestive system.
- Childbirth can damage the pelvic muscle responsible for healthy bowel movements.
- A weak pelvic floor, rather than an insufficient intake of fiber, can lead to chronic constipation.
- Menopause and hormonal imbalance experienced by older women affects digestion and leads to increased incidences of constipation.