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How do estrogen and progesterone affect irritable bowel syndrome?

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Estrogen and progesterone affect irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms in a few ways, from how your intestines work to how much pain you feel. Cells in your gut have things called receptors that let these hormones latch on to them. This suggests that your digestive system is designed to sense and react to them. Here are the main ways they affect IBS:

Most research has linked estrogen and progesterone with IBS. But scientists have also found that male sex hormones, like testosterone, may protect against the condition. This may be partly why men are less likely to get the disorder.

  • Digestion: They control the smooth muscle in your intestines, which dictates how quickly food travels through your system. In one study, animals took longer to empty their intestines when they received a low dose of the hormones than when they got a higher one. This may explain why low levels of sex hormones can lead to constipation.
  • Pain level: These hormones affect how much your cramps bother you. A dip lowers your pain threshold, in part because estrogen boosts the production of serotonin, a feel-good chemical in your brain. A jump in estrogen can reduce some of the ouch factor, so your bellyaches or cramps don’t hurt as much.
  • Inflammation: Sex hormones can raise levels of inflammation throughout your body. That makes your IBS symptoms worse.

From: Do Your Hormones Affect IBS? WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders: “Hormones and IBS.”  

Patricia Raymond, MD, associate professor of clinical internal medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School; spokesperson, American College of Gastroenterology.

Richard Benya, MD, gastroenterologist; professor of medicine, Loyola University Medical School.

Mulak, A. , March 2014. World Journal of Gastroenterology

Bharadwaj, S. , March 2015. Gastroenterology Report

Chen, T.  , January 1995. American Journal of Physiology

Heitkemper, M. , supplemental issue, 2009. Gender Medicine

Chang, L. , December 2001. The American Journal of Gastroenterology 

Cleveland Clinic Foundation: “Menstrual Cycle.”

Olafsdottir, L. , December 2011. Gastroenterology Research and Practice

Triadafilopoulos, G. , 1998. Women Health

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on September 17, 2017

SOURCES:

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders: “Hormones and IBS.”  

Patricia Raymond, MD, associate professor of clinical internal medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School; spokesperson, American College of Gastroenterology.

Richard Benya, MD, gastroenterologist; professor of medicine, Loyola University Medical School.

Mulak, A. , March 2014. World Journal of Gastroenterology

Bharadwaj, S. , March 2015. Gastroenterology Report

Chen, T.  , January 1995. American Journal of Physiology

Heitkemper, M. , supplemental issue, 2009. Gender Medicine

Chang, L. , December 2001. The American Journal of Gastroenterology 

Cleveland Clinic Foundation: “Menstrual Cycle.”

Olafsdottir, L. , December 2011. Gastroenterology Research and Practice

Triadafilopoulos, G. , 1998. Women Health

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on September 17, 2017

NEXT QUESTION:

What are the four stages of a menstrual cycle that affect irritable bowel syndrome?

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