Arnold Schwarzenegger once said “don’t be a girly man”. Perhaps this was meant to toughen up timid men with the unfortunate inference that girls are intrinsically timid. New research has found that women have more guts than men. This is a newly found anatomic difference but perhaps the metaphor applies as well.
Duke University has done comparative anatomical studies and found that women’s small intestine is 30 centimeters longer than men’s. This newly discovered difference has led to both speculation and possible explanation. The speculation is that since women bear children and the small intestine is where nutrients are absorbed that women have evolved a greater absorptive surface area to provide for fetal growth and development. Having a longer small intestine lessens the chance for escape of absorbable nutrients.
As a possible explanation it might play a role in weight issues and GI disturbances. How often have you heard of a husband and wife going on the same diet and the husband loses 10 to 15 pounds while the wife loses 3 to 4? Could this be due to greater absorptive efficiency?
SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) is a fairly common reason for GI tumult, either in its own right or as a confounding variable for IBS. SIBO tends to be more common, more severe and more difficult to treat in women. Again, is it due to greater length of the small intestine? Since the anatomic difference has been newly identified there is ongoing research to better understand its ramifications. Stay tuned.