Gastrointestinal symptoms seem to affect more women, due to hormonal and emotional issues, impacting the quality of life. The emotional state can affect the bowel functioning through a bidirectional communication system between the gut and the brain involving the neuroendocrine system. Altered bowel functioning and gastrointestinal symptoms can alter quality of life.
The SIM study aimed to describe, characterize and quantify gastrointestinal symptoms reported by Brazilian women, their causes, feelings and impact.
A structured electronic questionnaire was developed following qualitative phase for semantic formatting, and was administered to volunteer women in ten Brazilian cities. Descriptive and Bayesian statistics analyses were used.
From the 3029 respondent, 66% reported gastrointestinal symptoms. The most prevalent symptoms were gases (46%), abdominal distention and constipation (43%). The main causes were lifestyle and eating habits. Gastrointestinal symptoms affected quality of life in most women (62%), especially constipation (mood (89%), concentration (88%) and sexual life (79%)). Most common solutions were drinking water, teas, eating foods rich in fiber and probiotics.
Gastrointestinal symptoms are highly prevalent in Brazilian women and negatively impact different aspects of quality of life (mood, concentration and sexuality). The bowel is an important emotional catalyst that can modulate the psychologic behavior. Better understanding of the interaction between the gut and the brain should help in the management of gastrointestinal symptoms to improve women’s quality of life.
Gastrointestinal tract; Women’s health; Quality of life; Surveys and questionnaires.