It seems a little obvious to write an article about the differences between men and women. There are many differences in the physical and hormonal makeup between the two sexes, but some of the hidden and unseen ones include the structure of the digestive system.

What Does The Digestive System Include?

The digestive system, also known as the gastrointestinal tract, is the system that runs through the body from the mouth to the anus. It takes undigested food, breaks it down and delivers nutrients to the body, expelling the remainder of the food through bowel movements. Proper and healthy digestion is important to the body because it is what allows you to stay healthy, with different portions of the food being broken down for different purposes. The body needs proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in order to keep running well.

What Path Does Food Take Through The Body?

Even the very beginning of the digestive process differs between men and women. One of the beginning functions of your digestion starts in the esophagus. The esophagus and the esophageal sphincter allow chewed up food to be swallowed and delivered to your stomach. The esophageal sphincter serves to keep the esophagus closed, not allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. The female’s esophageal sphincter closes with more force than the male’s, which can lead to less heartburn and damage to the esophagus, as well as a lower production of stomach acid and ulcers.

Next Stop, The Stomach

It’s a bit of a stereotype to say that men can eat a lot more than women. But there is a biological function for that being the case. Once food hits the stomach, it is broken down by stomach acid. A Mayo Clinic study showed that the digestion process actually moves faster in men, with it taking 33 hours in comparison to the 47 hours for women’s digestion. Since the food is digested slower, it’s more common for women to experience bloating, nausea, and the longer feeling of fullness due to stomach inflammation.

What Happens Next?

Once the food is broken down in the stomach, it moves through the intestines. Excess water is absorbed, the food is broken down further by enzymes and bile, moving the food from your small intestine into the colon. Similar to how a woman’s stomach empties slower than her male counterpart, it takes longer for waste to pass through a woman’s colon. Part of this is due to hormones, part to the fact that a woman’s colon is actually longer than a man’s. Since the colon empties slower, it can lead to some changes in bowel movements when compared to men. Women are more prone to chronic constipation, and on the other side of the spectrum, can also be more likely to have the urgent need for a bowel movement. Additionally, this physical difference leads to a higher rate of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) in women, as well as high rates of colon cancer.

How To Keep Your System Running Well

It’s important to keep track of your bodily functions and understand what’s normal for you. Additionally, you should eat a healthy and balanced diet and include regular exercise in your routine in order to maintain a healthy weight. If you start to observe changes in your digestion, make an appointment with a doctor at Cary Gastroenterology to discuss these changes and how you can address them.