Estrogen and IBS
As I've written about here on this site, I suffer from both Endometriosis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I am convinced they are intimately intertwined as my IBS was diagnosed shortly before periods became even more painful. When I finally had surgery to confirm, diagnose and remove much of my endometriosis, quite a bit of it was found strangling my large intestines and adhering my ovaries to part of my colon. I experienced significant relief from many of my IBS symptoms in the first few years after the surgery.
However, I also believe that my Endometriosis may also be interconnected to my IBS in more ways than just literal obstructions or pressure the adhesions cause on my GI system, but by the fact that both disorders share certain hormonal culprits.
Estrogen and IBS
Endometriosis is often caused by a phenomenon known as estrogen dominance. As the term suggests, a woman's body makes too much estrogen. Estrogen is the dominant sex hormone in those who are anatomically female. Likewise, IBS can be impacted by estrogen. As one study notes, "sex hormones, in particular estrogens, play a significant role in the physiology and pathology of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract including regulation of motor and sensory function."1 The study goes on to show that women seem to experience an exacerbation of their IBS symptoms during the luteal (second half) phase of their menstrual cycle and during menstruation itself. It's the sudden plummeting of estrogen that sometimes seems to invoke severe pain and issues (like the body crashing after a high dose of caffeine).
The fact that IBS seems so profoundly impacted by estrogen may explain at least some of why IBS is much more common in women and those born females than in cis men--as I've also written about. It may also offer an opportunity to manage IBS as certain hormonal treatments for endo and other diseases of the female reproductive system or oral contraceptives, may actually in some instances benefit IBS as well.
Are you a woman who is impacted by IBS who has found any relief with hormonal treatments? Please share your experiences in the comments below!
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?