IBS Symptoms in Men

Interesting Research Findings

Young male colleagues chatting in office
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IBS in men does exist, although you wouldn't know it by the preponderance of IBS advertisements that seem to focus only on women. Unfortunately, it is not just advertisers who suffer from this gender bias, researchers also have been more likely to focus on women's issues in IBS, rather than men. In spite of this bias, some information regarding IBS symptoms in men has emerged:

Gender Differences in Terms of IBS Prevalence

Prevalence estimates vary depending on the population studied.

In random population surveys, women are twice as likely to suffer from IBS than men. When the study population consists only of individuals who have sought medical treatment of IBS, the odds increase to three to four times more women than men. These numbers change with geography: In Eastern countries, the odds are reversed with men being four times more likely to seek medical help for their IBS symptoms.

Why does this happen? No one knows for sure, but a prevailing hypothesis is that men in the Western culture are more likely to just live with the condition rather than seek help.

Gender differences in terms of IBS prevalence appear to lessen as individuals age. For women, IBS prevalence begins to decrease after the age of 45 (generally attributed to hormonal changes associated with menopause). By the age of 65, the rates of IBS in men and women are thought to be roughly equal.

Gender Differences in IBS Symptoms

It's currently unknown whether IBS has different symptoms in men and women, or if women are just more likely to report symptoms.

Compared to women, men appear to have a lower level of visceral hypersensitivity and are less likely to report:

Testosterone and IBS

Some studies have taken a look at the role that testosterone, the male sex hormone, plays in IBS. For the most part, research has not uncovered any difference in testosterone levels in men with IBS compared to those who do not suffer from the disorder.

However, one small study that focused on young men only did find higher testosterone levels in men with IBS versus healthy control subjects. Another interesting finding from that study was that there was no difference in testosterone levels between participants who suffered from IBS-C and those that suffered from IBS-D.

One other notable finding on the subject of testosterone and IBS is that men with higher levels of testosterone appear to experience greater visceral hypersensitivity, as measured by tests in which balloons are inflated within the rectum.


Kim, B., et.al. "Male sex hormones may influence the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in young men." Digestion 2008 78:88-92.

Palsson, O. & Whitehead, W. "Hormones and IBS" The UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders. Accessed February 5, 2010

Thompson, W. "IBS in Men: A Different Disease" International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder Fact Sheet. Accessed February 5,2010.

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