Let's Talk About Bowel Health
Dame Deborah James brought bowel health, and bowel cancer, to the forefront of everyone's minds. Before her death in June this year, she raised an incredible £7 million for Bowel Cancer UK, in the process helping us all talk about one of the most important parts of our bodies: the bowel.
What role does our bowel play in our bodies?
Your bowel does a lot for you, but it doesn't get the credit it deserves. It produces a whole slew of important nutrients and electrolytes, as well as waste that needs to be eliminated from your body. It also stores vital vitamins like A, B12, D and K to ensure you don't run out. Its most overlooked role is the link it forms to our brain - imagine the butterflies you get when you're nervous; they're the result of our brain sending signals to our gut, resulting in a physiological response.
Common bowel issues
In the UK, one in twenty of us suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) , with a further one in ten over 45s having a condition called diverticulitis. Other bowel conditions include colitis, Crohn's Disease, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Bowel cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in the UK, with a change in bowel habits being one of the earliest signs.
The role of diet and lifestyle in bowel health
Because your digestive system is the most absorptive and detoxifying part of your body, it stands to reason that a healthy gut means a healthy you. A diet rich in fibre, such as wholegrains, legumes, and fresh fruit and vegetables, will keep your bowel as healthy as it can be, and a reduction in processed food, particularly meats such as steak and bacon, has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of getting bowel cancer. The gut reacts to stress, so trying to reduce it in any way you can is paramount for a healthy gut. Look at your schedule and find some time to concentrate on your own wellness.
When you should seek medical advice
Bowel movements can change in frequency and consistency depending on many factors, including diet and lifestyle. For example, altering your eating habits may cause changes to your poo, as may being under stress for a period of time. However, it's crucial not to assume that any changes in bowel habits are due to benign changes; always get medically checked out if you experience any prolonged change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, bleeding or blood in your poo, extreme tiredness, a lump in your tummy, or stomach pain.