Most people can agree that men and women — though similar in countless different ways — are mechanically quite different from one another. While the jury is out in terms of how men and women react differently to certain probiotics, there are many interesting elements to consider that may help both men and women make the right decision about which probiotic supplement to take. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between men and women in terms of overall gut health — an important distinction to make.
Female Gut Health
So, what about gut health for women? Aside from the most significant and obvious difference — the presence of a woman’s reproductive system within the abdomen — there are several other factors that set digestive health apart for men and women. For one, some evidence exists for the notion that women tend to perceive certain tastes (such as bitter and sweet, for example) more prominently than men. This may not seem like anything important, but it may affect the way that the GI tract experiences stimulation.
Women also have slightly different tolerances to certain medications than men; this is largely due to a difference in enzyme systems between the two genders. Since women metabolize medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen differently than men, they may be more susceptible to GI tract inflammation and damage from chronically taking such drugs. Over a long enough period of time, this could result in serious complications.
Another important factor to consider is that women tend to suffer from certain digestive issues more frequently than men. Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease are all more common in women than in men. Pregnant women in particular are likely to experience symptoms such as nausea, heartburn and even gallstones. It seems that women have more needs than men when it comes to maintaining good gut health, and probiotics may be ideal for bridging this gap.
Male Gut Health
While women tend to experience lower GI issues such as irritable bowel more than men do, men tend to complain of acid problems – such as acid reflux (which used to be called “heartburn”). This discomfort is all-consuming when it occurs, and doctors tend to recommend dietary changes as well as proton-pump inhibitors (proton pumps are located in the stomach and are responsible for the release of stomach acid). Men also tend to develop duodenol ulcers (lesions in the upper part of the small intestine) twice more than women. Such lesions are often caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a pathogenic bacterium.
Supplementing with Probiotics: Why It Matters
When it comes to improving GI tract health, there are a number of different approaches to take. Diet certainly matters (for both men and women), but if a significant amount of damage has been done to the balance of good/bad bacteria within the gut microbiome, dietary improvements may not be enough to restore stability. In this case, the solution can often be found in probiotic supplements.
Not sure if supplementing with probiotics is right for you? Here are just a few reasons to think otherwise, whether you’re male or female.
1. Promotion of a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Between treatment with antibiotics and an increasing reliance on processed food, issues with gut health are becoming more common among both men and women. While taking better care of yourself and eating better is always a good idea, you may need to “kickstart” your gut’s microbiome to get things moving in the right direction. This can often be achieved by taking a probiotic supplement, which will help to restore balance in the gut and ensure there’s plenty of “good” bacteria to offset the “bad.”
2. Enhancing Immune Functionality
Often the difference between good health and inadequate health lies in the functionality of the immune system. When it is functioning optimally, it is able to allow us to fend off a host of invaders, by preventing them from causing physical distress. Approximately 70% of the immune system actually lives within the gut, which means it relies upon proper balance of bacteria in order to function at peak performance. By introducing a probiotics supplement into your body, you can bolster the immune system and provide it with the backbone it needs to vanquish harmful pathogens and disease.
3. Increasing Nutrient Absorption
Most people assume that if they eat healthy on a regular basis, they can expect to feel healthy as a result. While this is true for those whose gut bacteria is well-balanced, a healthy diet can only go so far for those who lack enough beneficial bacteria to help process the food that’s being eaten. Probiotics help to enhance and expedite the absorption of crucial vitamins and nutrients, providing the body with the nutrition it needs to function at peak capacity. Otherwise, the healthy, likely expensive food you’ve made a point to incorporate into your diet may not end giving you the benefits you seek from it.
4. Disarming Bad Bacteria
Bad or pathogenic bacteria, if left to their own devices, can cause infection: when this occurs, seek medical help immediately. This may occur when the gut’s immunity does not have enough raw materials such as beneficial bacteria to effectively identify and kill the pathogen. In women, the vaginal passage is also an area containing probiotics, and when this is imbalanced, a condition called vaginosis can result, necessitating medication. And while probiotics are not meant to treat or prevent infections, they can help bolster the body’s immunity to potentially curtail risk of developing one.
5. Reducing Antibiotic Side Effects
When the need arises, many people are prescribed antibiotics; this is very common and frequently necessary. While antibiotics can certainly be important tools for helping people get back on their feet and avoid serious complications from certain illnesses, they can create their own set of problems once inside the body. Antibiotics are so good at killing bacteria, they’re unable to discriminate between “good” and “bad” microbes and instead opt to kill as many as possible. By taking probiotics, you can repopulate your gut microbiome with the “good guys” you need to stay healthy and feel your best.
6. Supporting Clearer Skin
Did you know that your skin has its own microbiome? While connected to the body’s overall microbiome, the skin has its own layer of protective bacteria that help to ward off issues such as acne. For those who are looking to improve the clarity of their skin, taking a probiotic supplement may be an effective step in the right direction — especially if you experience digestive issues, too.
Do I Need Prebiotics?
As much attention as probiotics get, prebiotics tend to go overlooked — most people don’t even know what they are. To put it simply, prebiotics are digestive fibers that act as “food” for probiotics. They can be thought of as a “booster shot” for probiotics, assisting the microbes in doing their jobs to help maintain good health of the host (you). While prebiotics can be purchased in supplement form, they can also be incorporated into your diet via certain types of foods. Asparagus, onions, garlic, leeks, sunchokes and more all contain significant amounts of prebiotic fibers and can help you get the most out of any probiotic supplement.
Here are five reasons to take prebiotics
- Prebiotics assist the body in maintaining stable pH levels.
- They’re ideal for fighting inflammation (and assisting probiotics with this function).
- They support healthy colonic function.
- They support healthy heart function.
- They not only assist in mineral absorption but help probiotics to restore balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut.
The Bottom Line
While women and men certainly have major differences between their body types, it’s not yet clear whether certain strains of probiotics are better suited to one gender than another. What is clear, however, is that both men and women can benefit from incorporating a probiotic supplement into their daily regimen, as well as eating a healthy diet filled with prebiotic foods. Over time, doing so can help to bolster the microbiome’s ability to lessen impact of harmful bacteria and help you feel your best every day.