Change in Bowel Habit

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Change in Bowel Habit

Bowel Habit, that is the consistency and frequency of opening your bowels can vary from person to person. A change from your normal Bowel Habit and loose frequent stools does require review in our clinic to determine if specialist investigation is indicated.

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Changes in colour

Normally stool is dark brown in colour. Abnormal stool may be:

This may indicate bleeding in the upper part of your digestive system due to ulcers or irritation in your oesophagus or stomach. This causes bleeding and when the blood mixes with digestive fluids it takes on a black, tarry appearance.

While blood in the stool can be a sign of bowel cancer, it is more normally due to haemorrhoids (piles), especially if it is bright red in colour.

This can be caused by malabsorption often resulting in more fat in the stool. Causes include coeliac disease (gluten intolerance), low levels of digestive juices or bile salts not being absorbed properly.

A small amount of mucus in the stool can be normal. However, a noticeable increase may indicate an underlying health problem such as inflammation of the bowel, polyps or haemorrhoids (piles).

Changes in consistency and frequency

Other bowel changes that may require investigation include changes in consistency of your stool, including:

Loose, watery, more frequent stool may be caused by an infection, usually causing symptoms for 2 or 3 days . If symptoms persist it is more likely to be  linked to a more serious digestive complaints such as IBS, IBD or even a tumour.

Harder, bulky, less frequent stool is most commonly associated with dehydration, less dietry fibre and medication. It can be caused by a narrowing in the colon from diverticular disease or a tumour. A change in diet can help to alleviate symptoms, as can laxatives but a review in our clinic is important to determine if investigation is indicated.

Possible Causes of a change in bowel habit

Many different factors can affect your bowel habits, not all of them anything to worry about. For example, dietary changes or a change in water, medications and stress can all have an impact on your digestive system. Certain health conditions can also affect your bowels, including:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Diverticulosis
  • Coeliac disease
  • IBS
  • Thyroid disorders.

Whilst in most cases, it won’t be anything serious, in some cases changes in bowel habits can be linked to colorectal cancers. Early diagnosis is key to catching bowel cancer in the early stages and increasing the success of treatment.

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