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Olwen Anderson's Blog

Nine Bowel Signs You Shouldn't Ignore

Monday, November 10, 2008
Here’s a new habit that’s going to help you manage your health better. Next time you have a bowel motion, turn around and actually take a good look – your faeces can give you some valuable clues about your bowel health.
Here are nine signs that can alert you to problems. Some disorders are minor, some can drain you of energy and nutrients, and some can be signs that something more sinister is happening in the abdominal area.

1. Changes in form one day to the next can be indicative of a range of disorders. An extreme example is hard lumpy stools one day, and watery diarrhoea the next. The ideal form is soft yet firm.

2. Can you see undigested food particles in your faeces? This may indicate a shortage of digestive enzymes, or that your food is zooming through your intestines too quickly to be digested properly.  Without adequate time for digestion, important nutrients may not be absorbed, leaving you malnourished in the long term.

3. Pale, clay coloured stools may indicate problems with your liver. It’s the bile produced by your liver that gives stools their brown colour. Generally speaking, the more bile produced, the darker the stool. Its normal for stool colour to vary between mid brown and dark brown depending on what you’ve eaten.

4. Thin, ribbon-like stools indicate bowel inflammation of some description. Remember that the intestines are a tube. With inflammation comes swelling, so thin stools are a sign that all is not well.

5. Faeces streaked with blood calls for immediate professional attention.

6. Explosive diarrhoea can be the result of a parasite infestation. Is your water supply from a rainwater tank? Our delightful subtropical climate is also ideal for breeding parasites, like Giardia and Blastocystis Hominis. When did you last worm yourself and your family? Or clean out your rainwater tank?

7. Persistent constipation for over three months may alert you to a problem, particularly when you know you’re already eating 25-35g of fibre every day.

8. Feeling bloated can indicate a food intolerance. Identifying the culprit food group yourself is tricky, particularly as symptoms may occur up to four days after eating the problem food. Food allergies, in comparison, tend to produce immediate and rather unpleasant, sometimes even life-threatening symptoms.

9. Persistent pain in the abdominal area occurs in a range of conditions, and should not be ignored.

Some of these symptoms are collectively known as ‘irritable bowel’ although the causes behind them can vary from person to person. Fortunately, there are a host of remedies available to successfully address this condition, and natural therapies excel in addressing bowel disorders.

As humans, we tend to forget just how long a problem has been going on. If you’re unsure, try keeping a diary of your bowel movements for a week – frequency, form and colour - to get a clearer picture.  Just remember to keep looking before you flush!

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