SIBO affects women at double the rate. Unfortunately, this means even more challenges in getting diagnosed and treated.
Women are disproportionately medically gaslit:
“Studies show female patients and people of color are more likely to have their symptoms dismissed by medical providers. Experts say: Keep asking questions.” – New York Times
If you have experienced SIBO as a woman, I’d be willing to bet you’ve had to visit more than one doctor to make progress on getting to the bottom of your gut problems. At a guess. at least one doctor has treated you like you’re a bit insane or ‘exaggerating’.
Women tend to be taken less seriously by medical professionals, which stems from deep societal biases based on gender. I’m not going to my thoughts on this, because it makes me too irate, but I am going to explain how this can manifest for SIBO sufferers, of which well over half are female.
The New York Times released a great article on medical gaslighting of women and people of colour, and you can read it here: Women Are Calling Out ‘Medical Gaslighting’
I want to discuss how this often plays out for SIBO sufferers and why it often results in having to play the expensive and draining game of “doctor hop”.
It might help you feel less alone and push you not to give up, because your problems ARE VALID, and they ARE REAL.
During my time as a SIBO sufferer, I had many doctors suggest the following:
1. “Low FODMAP and shut up.”
Okay, they didn’t use these words, but it was the general drift of things.
2. “IBS doesn’t have a cure. Make some lifestyle changes.”
Okay, many cases of IBS do have cures if you find out the cause. Given that SIBO is treatable and one of the leading causes of IBS, the doctors who said this were just not educated on gut health (which many doctors are not).
3. “Go on the pill to fix your gut issues.”
Look, I understand that there was SOME level of logic with this one. When asked if my symptoms got worse around my period, I answered yes. But I think any doctor treating women should have enough awareness about the changes in female hormones that cause gastric upset before menstruation. They are well documented. Many women experience them. SIBO often gets worse before your period because there are more factors at play, but your period isn’t the cause of SIBO.
4. “Maybe it’s psychological”
I loved it when white male doctors implied that maybe I was just crazy, and all of this was in my head. Do we think they would have treated a male the same? I do not. I know many other female SIBO sufferers who have had similar experiences.
5. “I am a vain and shallow individual being dramatic about typical bloating, skin issues and clumps of hair falling out of my head”
- SIBO isn’t a minor health issue. It’s an everyday disturbance to your quality of life. Some manifest in your appearance, which are common symptoms we often disclose to our treating doctor.
- I had multiple experiences of doctors taking two looks at me, seeing I was a young, of usual enough weight woman, and then ultimately concluding that my complaints about hair loss, bloating stemmed from being vain.
- One constructive suggestion I was given was to spend less time on ‘the Instagram’, which cured my SIBO (this is a joke – this did not fix my SIBO).
- This shows that we are STILL in a time when women need to work extra hard to get a correct diagnosis and treatment for their SIBO.
- I hope this site helps empower you with the resources required to overcome some discrimination women still face in medicine.
- This platform was created so fewer people have to experience what I did over the years.
- Don’t give up. If one doctor doesn’t take you seriously, find one who will. You are not crazy. You are not being shallow. You are not dramatic. This is not in your head.