What is the Bowel:
The bowel goes from the stomach to the anus and it is part of the digestive system. The digestive system goes through all the food we eat making it into nutrients for our bodies. It also gets rid of our bodies waste. The bowel is made up of the small intestine and the large intestine. The small intestine absorbs the nutrients from the food you eat and digests it, the large intestine absorbs water from the food and forms poo.
The main factors that affect your bowel are:
- Your muscles and nerves – If your muscles or nerves are damaged during an illness or treatment it can effect you and make it more difficult for you to pass your poo.
- What you eat and drink – If you are dehydrated or are not getting enough fibre it can make it difficult for you to pass poo, so it is important to drink at least two litres of water a day and eat a diet high in fibre.
- How much you exercise – A lack of exercise can make your muscles in your bowel weak this slows down the movement of waste through your bowels.
- How old you are – This can effect your bowel because the older you get the less active you are you may not drink as much water and have as much fibre in your diet.
- Other conditions – Many other factors can cause bowel problems, it is important to tell your doctor about your problems and get the right treatment.
Symptoms of Constipation:
Constipation is having difficultly opening your bowels.
The early symptoms of constipation are having difficulty and pain when having a bowel movement, having fewer than 3 bowel movements during a week, having to strain a lot, feeling bloated and having hard poo.
The severe symptoms of constipation are having a swollen stomach, having liquid diarrhoea you can’t control, loss of appetite, feeling tired and sick, headaches and being unable to pass urine.
Symptoms of Diarrhoea:
Diarrhoea is having more than 3 unformed poo in a 24 hour time period. 10% of people with cancer have diarhoea due to the cancer or the cancer treatment.
The early symptoms of diarrhoea are an increase in bowel movements, an increase in the amount of poo you have a day, a change in the way your poo looks, cramps, feeling tired and sick, needing to go to the bathroom urgently and feeling bloated.
The severe symptoms of diarrhoea are having a high temperature, being very thirsty, having a quick heart beat, having dark urine, feeling tired or sick, having mucus or blood in your poo and having sever cramps in your stomach.
Treating Constipation and Diarrhoea:
To help with constipation you should change your diet and make sure to include lots of fibre and you should drink a lot more water everyday. You can get fibre from porridge, wholemeal bread, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, eating whole grain rice not white rice, having dried nuts and potatoes with their skin on. You should also do gentle exercises.
To help with diarrhoea you should go see your doctor as they can prescribe you medicine to help with it. Drink lots of fluids as with diarrhoea you can lose them very quickly and become dehydrated.