The bowel is an important part of our digestive system, but what is it, and what should we be aware of when weighing up our overall bowel health?
The bowel is made up of three parts:
1. The small intestine is around 6 meters in length and is the narrower (small) section of the bowel. It absorbs the nutrients in the food we digest.
2. The colon and rectum make up the larger intestine, it is much shorter but thicker. Its role is to reabsorb fluid and process the waste material.
3. Finally, the rectum is where the waste material is stored until we go and drop a log so to speak.
What comes out and the frequency of our bowel movement is something else we should take note of. Our poo or stool should be soft, sausage shaped and should not require too much effort to pass. The frequency can depend on individual habits, changes to our diet, but the main thing to remember here is a sudden change in your poo routine could indicate other issues.
So, what’s not normal?
Signs of Blood: Bright or fresh signs of blood on the toilet paper could be a result of haemorrhoids (usually a result of constipation or straining too hard) or wiping too hard and frequently can cause small cuts/tears on the anus. Blood in the poo (especially darker blood) could mean bleeding further up the bowel and should be discussed with a doctor immediately.
Constipation: Dry or hard poo sometimes associated with cramping or bloating in our lower abdomen (something we have all probably experienced) can often be resolved with some lifestyle changes ie. drinking plenty of water, eating a diet high in soluble fibre (fruit/vegies/oat bran/lentils/beans) and an increase in physical activity.
Diarrhoea: We have all probably had a mean curry that has caused us to frequent the loo, but diarrhoea is usually caused by our intestine becoming inflamed and irritated affecting the reabsorption of water from the waste material. This can be caused from numerous factors such as: illness/infection, food poisoning, drinking contaminated water, ulcers, stress and certain food intolerances.
Leakage: Accidental leakage or incontinence can be associated with severe diarrhoea but can also be caused by weakness or damage to the muscles around our bowel and anus. Bladder and Bowel Health WA, (previously The Continence Foundation of WA) is a great resource to get assistance, advice and support if you are affected by incontinence. Please find their details at the bottom of this article.
If any of these issues are having an effect for more than 2-3 days a visit to the doctor is recommended. A prominent cancer is bowel cancer and can remain undetected until well advanced.
Remember good bowel health and our digestive system is often compared to being just as important as brain function, just at the other end of the body. So, remember it is worth giving a shit about!!
Terry and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277