A. Wash hands before eating.
B. Attend the loo each day.
C. Wash hands afterwards.
We can go on forever but "The Bowels" occupy countless hours of thinking, planning, trying and straining. In former years in hospital, a nurse checked every patient every day to "tick off" bowel activity. The bathroom is also a place for quiet reflection, reading, contemplating the navel, making plans for the day or simply escaping from the roar of the family.
Whatís normal? Medicine and society suggest once per 24 hours is fine. Water is sucked from food in the large bowel, where it then enters the rectum until "nature calls". Some find a glass of (warm) water at bedtime or early morning a good kick start. Often following brekky, there is a similar stimulating effect. The longer food residue sits in the colon, the harder it becomes. This can lead to constipation and discomfort on discharge. Shorter time means much looser action. This can lead to anal discomfort, redness and tenderness. It may also indicate bowel infection, usually fixed by simple dietetic measures like reducing food intake for a few days, drinking more water, avoiding fizzy drinks and fried and fatty goo. The gut dislikes fat, especially the gall bladder, and it also builds up cholesterol levels which is a No No.
A few years ago "Lancet" (the doctors medical journal) said the record "non bowel activity" was two years, but I donít believe it. Sudden onset of constipation or recurring hard then loose actions in anyone over 40 is often an early indication of bowel cancer, and needs immediate checking.
Bowel cancer, undetected is a one way ticket to Valhalla. Today, simple Haemoccult (do it yourself tests from the chemist) give a rough screen but a colonoscopic examination is the gold standard. Cancers start off as a "polyp" (a tiny wart sized outgrowth on the bowel lining). Removed early they are harmless. If left, many will develop into bowel cancer, still one of the commonest causes of cancer death.
If a family member is diagnosed, all other family members must be checked from age 40 years the gastro-enterologists are currently advising. There are often no early symptoms. Irregular bowel actions, especially constipation are the most common early ones. Treating simple constipation is easy. Drink more water. Eating high fibre foods and fruit and veggies head the list. Also dates, sultanas, figs and similar foods are wonderful. Psyllium Fibre (natural herbal product) is cheap and easy, Two tsp in 250 mLs of water, stirred then drink immediately, followed by a further 250 mLs of water usually does the trick. It also absorbs fats from the bowel, and is a well-known cholesterol lowering agent. However, if problems persist, please see your doctor.