We admit it. This isn't the typical dinner table topic but if you're curious about your toilet habits and want to know more about your overall health, paying attention to your bowel movements is important! In fact, your bowel habits and bowel movements can tell you a lot about your digestive health. The consistency, the frequency, even the color; a slight change might just be the indicator that you need to check in and see if there's an underlying infection or condition present.
First things first, there are a number of lifestyle changes that can cause bowel changes, so if you have changed up your diet, began exercising more regularly, or have started a new medication - it is possible that this has impacted your digestion. However, there are also some underlying chronic conditions that can cause changes, these include:
- Celiac disease
- Chron’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Bowel cancer
See also: What Affects Bowel Function?
What can cause a change in bowel habits?
A change in your bowel movements and habits can come down to something as simple as a change in your everyday habits, maybe you're drinking more water (or not enough) or you tried out a new dinner recipe. In saying that, a change in the color, shape, and texture of your stool can sometimes be an indicator of an infection or an underlying health condition.
Celiac disease is an immune reaction to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. If you have celiac disease, you will experience a range of symptoms when you eat gluten - these include :
- Abdominal pain
If you suspect that you have celiac disease, it's important to speak with a healthcare professional. This condition is usually treated by excluding foods from your diet. If you would prefer, you can choose to test for Celiac disease from home with LetsGetChecked's at-home Celiac Test which can help identify celiac disease by checking for antibodies in the blood.
Chron’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It's a serious long-term condition that causes inflammation in your digestive tract - this can lead to :
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe diarrhea
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and/or have a family history of Chron's disease, speak with your healthcare provider who will be able to help you take the right steps towards finding the underlying cause of your signs and symptoms.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common long-term condition that can affect the large intestine. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Stomach pain
Many people with IBS can manage their symptoms through some lifestyle changes such as managing their diet and reducing stress. Remember to speak with a professional if you are concerned about your symptoms.
Bowel cancer is the term used for cancer that begins in the large bowel however depending on where it begins, it can also be referred to as colon or rectal cancer. The symptoms are known to be subtle however some of the more common symptoms can include:
- Persistent change in bowel habits
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
It’s important to note that these symptoms don’t always indicate bowel cancer and they can occur as a result of an underlying condition or something simple such as a change in diet. However, if you are concerned and your symptoms persist, speak with your doctor.
See also: What are the risk factors associated with bowel cancer?
When should I be concerned about bowel changes?
A change in bowel habits is generally completely normal and not something to worry about. With that said, if you notice a persistent change in your bowel movements such as more frequent bowel movements, or not so frequent, accompanied by symptoms such as abdominal pain or blood or mucus in your stool, you should seek medical attention and speak with your doctor.
LetsGetChecked’s at-home Bowel Cancer Screening Test can help identify the presence of cancerous or precancerous growths in the bowel by detecting blood that is invisible to the naked eye.
You should consider getting screened if:
- You are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms
- You have a history of adenomas (benign tumors)
- You have inflammatory bowel disease* (which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis)
- You have an inherited syndrome (e.g. Lynch syndrome/HNPCC or FAP)
- You have type 2 diabetes
- You have undergone radiation therapy
If you have already noted blood in the stool, or any other symptoms listed, you should talk to your physician.
See also: How Can You Screen For Bowel Cancer From Home?