You might not often discuss your bowel habits with your nearest and dearest, but here’s a list of red flags for bowel movements you would need to speak to your doctor about.

Red flags to look out for around bowel movements

In general terms ongoing bleeding or pain that doesn’t go away needs investigating. Don’t be embarrassed about going to the doctor, they have honestly seen it all before.

If you’re worried about it then speak to your doctor to see if there is an issue.

person in light blue jeans and mid blue t-shirt sitting on a toilet holding a piece of paper with a cartoon sad face sketched in front of their head

How to check for red flags

You may not actually look at the toilet, but it can tell you a lot about your digestion if you can get over the ikk factor! Things to look out for include:

  • Black looking poo, which may appear like coffee granules. This could indicate bleeding in the intestines and needs checking out.
  • It’s important to speak to a doctor if you have blood or significant mucus in your poo. Check with a doctor after any sighting of this symptom.
  • Often fresh red blood is the sign of haemorrhoids, or a small tear which is nothing to worry about if it heals up, but it’s worth checking with your doctor if this is happening a lot and they haven’t checked you for piles. Mucus indicates some level of inflammation in the colon, and is indicated in some bowel conditions.

Other issues with bowel movements to watch out for

  • Bloating that won’t go away also needs investigation. It could be small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) which may need antibiotics to address the bacteria causing excessive gas and bloating.
  • Abdominal pain that doesn’t go away
  • Feeling a lump in your abdomen
  • A change in your bowel habits by increasing the number of times you go, or significantly reducing the number of times.
  • Unexplained and unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue or tiredness that won’t go away
white woman with straight dark hari and light brown jumper sitting on beige sofa with hands on chin, elbows resting on her knees

What’s a perfect poo?

So now we know what’s a red flag, how would you know what to aim for? Well, in summary, it’s when you don’t have any concerns about going to the bathroom. There is no pain, nothing worrying and generally you’re not thinking about poo other than when you need to go!

  • A healthy poo is one that is easy to pass, with no straining, and no urgency.
  • It should be well formed, not too loose and not too dry.
  • It’s considered normal to go for a poo 1-3 times a day. It’s best to open your bowels once a day.
  • If you’re going less than 3x a week this means you’re constipated.

If you’re experiencing pebbly hard poos you could be constipated, even if you go to the toilet every day. This often means a slow transit time where more water is being absorbed back into your body. 

So do you have any questions about your bowel habits and whether they are normal? Check out any red flags with your doctor, but if you have other questions please get in touch on my Instagram @goodnessme_nutrition

Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritional Therapist.

I help people with IBS and SIBO get control of unpredictable gut symptoms to find long term relief from painful and embarrassing IBS without restrictive dieting.

I can help you to:

  • understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
  • eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
  • develop better digestion and more energy

Find more about my 3 month 1:1 Gut Reset programme

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