Digestive Health for Women
Digestion and diet
The food we eat goes into our mouths, down to our stomachs, and then through our digestive tracks. There, our bodies break down out food and nutrients, using it or expelling it through bowel movements about 36 hours later. And like many things with men and women, this process (and even biological make up) is different between the sexes. As a women, your digestive system has unique needs, a lot of which are impacted by diet. That's what we're talking about here.
What is a healthy diet?
A healthy diet provides adequate energy and all the necessary nutrients to maintain optimal health — both physical and therefore mental and emotional (after all, our bodies impact everything else about us). Macronutrients, required in higher amounts in the food you eat, include carbohydrates, fats and protein. Micronutrients, required in relatively smaller amounts, include vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (often found in plants).
So, a healthy diet contains, ideally, lots of fruits and veggies, proteins, grains and some dairy. Of course, understanding your food sensitivities has a big impact on what you eat and how you get these nutrients. This is where food sensitivity and allergy testing can have a really important role to play in your overall health.
What is digestive health?
Digestive health is a big deal. It's the gateway to good health and it's the key to your overall well being.
The digestive system is made up of digestive and accessory organs, including:
large intestine (colon)
It also includes various chemical compounds in your body like hormones and enzymes that help break down food into nutrients your body can use. Your gut microbiota—that's the community of live microorganisms found in high concentrations in your colon—are also essential to digestion and maintaining gut health.
You can take steps to support your digestive wellness by making smart lifestyle choices like:
eating a healthy diet
supporting your health with dietary supplements when needed
DYK? Men and women's digestive systems are different
I know, talking about your digestive system can feel... icky. But it's a major bodily function and can mean a lot for. your health. So it's important you DO know this! AND, many people do not know that men and women's digestive tracks are different.
Digestive track works in about 33 hrs compared to 47 hours
Colon shaped like inverted U that sits on top of the abdomen
System is uncrowded by reproductive organs, meaning more room for food, less chance of bloating and less likely to have constipation
Produces less stomach acid
Colon is 10CM longer
Slower emptying time of stomach and colon
Colon shares space with reproductive organs
Menstrual cycle or pregnancy hormones impacts digestion
More bloating and discomfort in general
The gut microbiome in women
Both men and women have gut microbiomes. This is the collection of bacteria that live in your gut and help to break down food as it travels through your body. But, there are also some differences between men and women's biomes.
Certain strains of beneficial bacteria in microbiome may be beneficial for female genital health and to overall digestive health. These strains, from the Lactobacillus genus, are some of the most prevalent probiotics known to man. This is why probiotics are so often marketed towards women.
The Unique Nature of the Women's digestive System
The biggest thing that makes women's digestive tracks so unique is the role that hormones play. Women experience more hormonal fluctuations in more extreme highs and lows due to menstruation cycles and then pregnancy.
It can take women up to 14 more hours than men to move food through the large intestine. They're also more prone to fluid retention, bloating, constipation and slow digestion.
How can women take care of their digestive health?
These are my 6 top tips for taking care of your digestive health as a woman.
Get professional help
A nutritionist or professional that specializes in digestive health can be the best resource for you.
Use a digestive enzyme
Digestive enzymes are usually secreted by the digestive tract to help in digesting fats, proteins and carbs.
Take a L-Glutamine supplement
This supplement can help reduce intestinal cell death that can happen when you're stressed out.
Take a probiotic
All strains are not created equally, so this is where a professional can help, too.
Eat more fibre
Fibre is key to helping everything move through your system smoothly. Soluble and insoluble forms can help.
Get your body moving
Regular exercising and movement — even walking — can help reduce bloating, constipation and pain.
Foods that can improve your digestive health
As a general rule, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is the best way to keep all systems in your body functioning properly. Lots of fruits, veggies, fibre-rich grains, and proteins (animal or plant) can help keep your digestive track healthy.