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Women’s Digestive Health Is Largely Affected By Their Hormonal Changes, Here’s Why

Women’s Digestive Health Is Largely Affected By Their Hormonal Changes, Here’s Why

Digestion is one of the body’s naturally-occurring, automatic functions. Generally, it is something we don’t have to give much thought to because it happens without problems. The digestive health of some people, however, can be problematic. Poor digestive health occurs with the following diagnoses: Crohn’s Disease, gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and gastroparesis (to name a few).

Women are particularly susceptible to poor digestive health and more likely to suffer from the previously mentioned disorders. Even in digestive disorders that occur in both genders equally, women are more likely to suffer from severe symptoms. Why? Well, the digestive systems of men and women are different. For starters, women have longer intestinal tracts in order to move around the uterus and ovaries. According to Dr. Shakti Singh, gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation in Modesto, California, the second difference between men and women is “hormones and their effect on the female GI tract.”[1]

How Do Hormones Affect Digestive Health?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Progesterone and estrogen are the main hormones that affect digestive health, particularly in an IBS diagnosis. Your gut is full of special cells with receptors that are designed to attach to these hormones. Once inside of your gut, these hormones affect your digestive health, causing pain and inflammation.

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Smooth muscles inside of your digestive system help push food and waste through your intestinal tract. Progesterone and estrogen affect how fast this happens. Low levels of these sex hormones slow down the process and can lead to constipation. High levels result in diarrhea. Constipation and diarrhea, in turn, causes cramps. When your estrogen levels are low, you feel more pain. This happens because estrogen promotes serotonin production, which works to increase your pain threshold. Lower levels of serotonin mean your cramps and pains hurt more.[2]

Menstrual Cycle

430px-menstrualcycle2_en-svg

    Source

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    Hormones change during all stages of the menstrual cycle, which also affects digestive health. Women, both with and without IBS, have reported digestive health problems during the premenstrual cycle, menstruation, and perimenopause (the stage before menopause). These symptoms include: bloating, constipation, diarrhea, bowel discomfort, and abdominal pain.

    What are these monthly hormonal fluctuations? During the first five days of the menstrual cycle, beginning on day 1 of your period, your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. Estrogen begins to increase between days 6 and 14. Between days 15 and 24, progesterone production increases. Somewhere between days 24 and 28, these hormones drop suddenly.[3]

    When these hormones are decreased, poor digestive health is triggered. These symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, bowel discomfort, and intestinal pain.

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    The Gallbladder and Gallstones

    Your gallbladder is an important component of digestive health. The gallbladder stores concentrated bile, which it releases into the small intestine to help digest fats. Sometimes, gallstones form inside of the gallbladder. These stones are hard concentrations of cholesterol that can migrate to the bile duct. Once there, gallstones block the bile duct, which harms your digestive health by causing intense abdominal pain and diarrhea.[4]

    Women are more likely to develop gallstones than men. This is true because estrogen increases the concentration of cholesterol in bile. In addition, low levels of progesterone slow down gallbladder contractions. When the gallbladder cannot empty cholesterol-rich bile, gallstones form.[5]

    How to Improve Digestive Health

    Although it is difficult to control hormonal changes, there are some things you can do to reduce the symptoms of poor digestive health.[6]

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    Eat More Fiber

    Make sure your diet is full of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, and nuts. These are all fiber-rich foods. Fiber helps you maintain proper digestive health by increasing the bulk and softness of stool. This reduces the risk of developing constipation and its accompanying bloating and cramping.

    Drink More Water

    In addition to eating more fiber, you should also increase your water intake. Water and other fluids help your body process the increased fiber intake. It also flushes waste and toxins through your liver and kidneys.

    Consider Taking Birth Control

    Birth control pills give you a more stable amount of estrogen and progestin (artificial progesterone). One of the biggest positives of taking birth control (beside avoiding unwanted or unplanned pregnancies) is decreased menstrual cramps.[7]

    However, your hormones still drop before menstruation, which makes you vulnerable to poor digestive health. In addition, some researchers have found a link between taking birth control pills and increased risk for gallstones[8] and Crohn’s disease[9].

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] https://www.mylifestages.org/health/digestive_health/digestion_in_women.page
    [2] WebMD: Do Your Hormones Affect IBS?
    [3] Women In Balance Institute: About Hormone Imbalance
    [4] NHS Choices: Gallstones
    [5] Hormones Matter: The Gallbladder: An Essential Organ Influenced by Hormones
    [6] Everyday Health: What Women Need to Know About Their Digestive Health
    [7] Empower: Birth Control Pills and Digestive Side Effects
    [8] Drugwatch: Yaz Gallbladder Disease
    [9] Health Day: Birth Control Pills, HRT Tied to Digestive Ills

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    Amber Pariona

    EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

    50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

    If you’re like me and really into self-development, you’ve probably read many of the thousands of self-help books out there on the market. But also like me, you probably find all the information a bit overwhelming.

    That’s why I wanted to do the self-less task of taking the most important, life-changing lessons I’ve drawn from these books and condensed them into 50 key points.

    Here’re 50 habits of successful people you should learn:

    1. Believe It to See It

    Our minds tend to focus on what’s happening around us and refuse to see what could happen. Only when you trust in what’s possible and dare to dream big, big things can happen for you.

    2. See Problems as a Wonderful Gift

    While others only see problems and give up, successful people use the problem as a lesson to find improvement in themselves or the task at hand.

    3. Keep Looking for Solutions

    Even if they’re knee-deep in problems, successful people will still put all of their focus on finding solutions.

    4. Remember It’s All About the Journey

    Successful people are conscious and methodical in creating their own success. They don’t sit around doing the bare minimum, hoping success finds them.

    5. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

    There’s so much fear on the road to success, but instead of letting that fear control and limit them, successful people do a good job of just forging ahead regardless.

    6. Always Ask Productive Questions

    It’s all about asking the right questions. Successful people make sure they are questions that will elicit information for a more productive, creative and positive mindset moving forward.

    7. Understand the Best Waste of Energy Is Complaining

    Successful people know that choosing to see the negative side of things will only create a useless and unproductive state.

    8. Don’t Play the Blame Game

    Taking responsibility for actions and outcomes is a form of empowerment that you can build your success upon. While the act of blaming others or outside circumstances takes this empowerment away from you.

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    9. Maximize Your Strengths

    Not every successful person is simply more talented than the rest, but they do use what they know they’re good at to achieve more successful results.

    10. Be in It to Win It

    Successful people are busy, productive and proactive. Instead of sitting around over-thinking and over-planning a great idea, they just take a step towards it no matter how small.

    11. Know That Success Attracts Success

    People who are successful surround themselves and seek out like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team and forge win-win relationships.

    12. Actually Choose to Be Successful

    Dreaming big is a massive part of being successful even if your dream seems impossible. Ambition is a mindset that needs to be a daily conscious choice.

    13. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize!

    You’ve got to see your success in your mind’s eye even before it comes. Successful people clarify and get that certainty about what they want their reality to look like rather than being mere spectators of life.

    14. Be a One-Off Original

    Successful people look for what’s working and then create a unique spin on it. Imitating only regurgitates other people’s ideas with no originality.

    15. The Perfect Time to Act Is Now

    Waiting for the right time to act is basically procrastination wrapped up in an excuse. Successful people know there’s never a perfect time so they may as well just do it now.

    16. Keep Learning, Keep Growing

    Continuous learning is the key to a successful life. Whether it’s academic, being a student of life or actionable learning, it’s all about expanding your knowledge and personal development.

    17. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

    Successful people have the knack for finding positive aspects in all people and circumstances no matter what.

    18. Having a Bad Day? Do It Anyway!

    We all have bad moods but it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop everything. Giving into a bad mood just stop-starts your life, slowing success way down.

    19. Sometimes Risky Business Is Needed

    Calculated risks are a must for success. It’s about weighing the pros and cons while moving forward with that element of trust.

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    20. Accept Challenge All the Time

    Dealing with problems head-on is a must to be successful. Successful people also face challenges in order to improve themselves.

    21. Make Your Own Luck

    In the mindset of a successful person, there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’. They take control to actively and consciously create their own best life.

    22. Ignite Your Initiative

    While many people are reactive, successful people are proactive – taking action before they have to.

    23. Be the Master of Your Emotions

    Being effective at managing emotions is key on the road to success. That’s not to say successful people don’t feel like we all do, but they’re just not slaves to their emotions.

    24. Champion in Communication

    Consciously working on effective communication skills gets anyone closer to success.

    25. Plan Your Life Strategically

    Successful people’s lives aren’t a clumsy series of unplanned events and outcomes, they methodically work at turning their plans into a reality.

    26. Become Exceptional at What You Do

    To become exceptional, you typically have to do things that most won’t. To become successful, hard decisions need to be made and acting on them is crucial.

    27. Choose to Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

    While many people are pleasure junkies and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs, successful people understand the value and benefits of working through the tough stuff that most would avoid.

    28. Live by Core Values

    Successful people firstly identify their core values and what’s important to them, then do their best to live a life that reflects these values.

    29. Realize Money Isn’t Everything

    Money and success are not interchangeable and the most successful people understand this. Putting money on a pedestal and equating it to success is a dangerous mindset to have. Success comes in many forms.

    30. Don’t Get Carried Away

    Successful people understand the importance of discipline and self-control and as a result they are happy to take the road less travelled.

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    31. Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Success

    Successful people are secure. They do not derive their self-worth from what they own, who they know, where they live or what they look like.

    32. Kindness Breeds Kindness (And Success)

    Generosity and kindness is a common trait among long-term successful people. It’s important to take pleasure in helping others achieve.

    33. More Humility, Less Arrogance

    Successful people are humble and happy to admit and apologize for mistakes. This is because they’re confident in their ability. They are happy to learn from others and happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory.

    34. Change Opens New Doors

    People who are successful are adaptable and embrace change, while the majority are creatures of comfort and habit. They are comfortable with, and embrace, the new and the unfamiliar.

    35. Success Requires a Healthy Body

    It’s not just how you think, it’s about how you show up for success. Successful people understand the importance of being physically well, not for vain reasons but because being in tiptop condition creates a better personal life for success.

    36. Laziness Just Doesn’t Exist

    Successful people are never considered lazy. Yes, they can relax when they need to, but working hard is their game.

    37. Resilience by the Bucket Load

    When difficulty strikes, most would throw in the towel, but successful people are just warming up.

    38. Feedback Is Just Another Chance to Improve

    How people react to feedback determines their potential for success. Being open to constructive criticism and acting on it to improve is most seen in those who are successful.

    39. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

    If people are hanging out with toxic and negative people, then they need to take a look at themselves. Successful people hang out with others who are positive and supportive.

    40. Can’t Control It? Forget It

    Successful people don’t invest time or emotional energy into things which they have no control of.

    41. Swim Against the Tide

    Successful people are not people-pleasers and they don’t need constant approval from others in order to move ahead.

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    42. Alone Time Is Valuable Time

    More self-worth means being more comfortable with your own company. Successful people are more happy and see the value in spending time alone.

    43. Self-Standard Is Higher Than Most

    Everyone has a choice to set high standards for themselves. Successful people do this, which in turn produces greater commitment, more momentum, a better work ethic and of course, better results.

    44. Failure Isn’t Rationalized

    While many use age, health, lack of time, ‘bad luck’, or lack of opportunity to explain away their failure, the key to success is finding a way to succeed despite facing these challenges.

    45. Down Time Is an Important Part of a Routine

    Having an off switch and taking time to do things that make them happy is a common trait of a successful person. Take a look at here The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    46. Career Isn’t Who You Are, It’s What You Do

    Successful people know their career isn’t their identity. They are multi-dimensional and don’t define themselves by their job.

    47. Be Interested in Only the Path of Resistance

    While most people look for the easiest way or the shortcut, successful people are more interested in the most effective way. They look for the course of action which will produce the best results over the long term.

    48. Follow Through

    Many spend their life starting things that they never finish, but successful people get the job done. Even when the excitement and the novelty has worn off they still follow through and finish.

    49. Invest in All Your Dimensions

    We’re not just physical and psychological beings, but emotional and spiritual creatures as well. Successful people consciously work at being healthy and productive on all levels.

    50. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

    To obtain success, it’s important to practice what you preach. Successful people don’t talk about the theory, they live the reality.

    So there you have it, a summary of what I’ve learned from self-help books. But of course, you need to start taking actions so you will get closer to success too.

    Bonus: 5 Bad Habits To Quit

    More About Success

    Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

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