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A Woman’s Digestive System

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Many people, both male, and female have digestive issues.

However, women tend to have more issues than men and the main reasons are anatomy and hormones. And as we age, and with lifestyle changes, including unmanaged stress, these issues to escalate. 

Let’s look at anatomy first.

As we know, we most women have a uterus and two ovaries. What’s interesting to consider, is that the digestive intestines, specifically the colon, has to fit in around these structures which makes for a more challenging route than, let us say, in a man.

Now the gut.

Much research is emerging showing that the gut and its’ microbes are players in our physiology including many gastrointestinal jobs like intestinal permeability, the absorption of nutrients from food, immunity and regulating circulating estrogen levels.

The estrobolome is the collection of gut microbes capable of metabolizing estrogens; helping to keep estrogen in balance. These microbes will produce beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme that further assists in estrogen balance. When the gut microbiome is in balance, the estrobolome produces just the right amount of beta-glucuronidase. However, when not, there will be an increase or decrease of estrogen.

Side note. Think twice (and test before guessing!): One extremely important effect women’s hormones have on the digestive system is estrogen’s effect on the gallbladder. The gallbladder produces bile that helps break down the fat we eat. Women are twice as likely as men to have gallstones; this is due to the fact that estrogen will raise cholesterol in the bile and slow down gallbladder movement. There also may be some connection, similar to this, with pancreatic issues.

What To Do

Hydrate:
Always a good idea. Keep those mucus membranes lubricated so they can do their job well.

Eat Fiber:
Eating more veggies, nuts, and seeds. I suggest to patients to fill their breakfast plate with colored whole foods: a green salad with their eggs, or an omelet ( or smoothie) packed with veggies, or simply having a green salad topped with other veggies, nuts, and seeds.

PS Adding chia seeds to protein smoothies or making chia seed pudding can be very helpful and a perfect snack.

Quality Probiotic:
Probiotic supplementation is a relatively simple and inexpensive way to restore gut microbe imbalance. I often suggest for patients to rotate their probiotic supplements. Broad-spectrum Lactobacillus brand and MegaSporeBiotic are good first starts. If you need help, contact me.

Get Tested (don’t guess):
I frequently have my patients do a GI Map Test and/or a DUTCH hormone test. Both include a ton of information that allows us to move a head in a more personalized treatment plan. Please contact me to learn more.

xx

dr. heather

Read more

Do Fluctuations in Ovarian Hormones Affect Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Women With Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Margaret M. Heitkemper, PhD1 and Lin Chang, MD2.

Stinton, L. and Shaffer, E. “Epidemiology of Gallbladder Disease: Cholelithiasis and Cancer”. Gut Liver. 2012 Apr; 6(2): 172–187.

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