Digestive Diseases

Sex hormones affect smooth muscle contraction, gastrointestinal transit time, visceral sensitivity, central nervous system pain processing and gut function.

In irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — a relatively common condition that affects 15 to 20 percent of adults — disease prevalence and expression are linked to sex. By a 3-1 ratio, IBS is more common in women than men.

In women, IBS symptoms are most severe during the postovulatory and premenstrual phase of their cycle, and two-thirds of women with IBS report rheumatologic symptoms.

Areas of focus

In the Women's Health Research Center, research related to digestive diseases is focused on:

  • Molecular, genetic, cellular and physiological regulatory mechanisms underlying gastrointestinal motility
  • Nerve reflexes within the gut wall and between the gut and brain
  • Mechanisms underlying sensory nerve function
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction

Faculty involved

Center faculty members involved in digestive disease research include:

Collaborative efforts also exist with other investigators in the Enteric Neuroscience Program.