Keeping our digestion moving is so important. Many people have problems in this area. In fact, problems with a sluggish bowel and constipation affect around 2–10 per cent of the general population and up to 23 per cent in older adults. It is a more common problem in women than men. Not only can not being regular cause abdominal discomfort but it also comes with other significant health problems as mentioned below.

What are the Symptoms of a Sluggish Bowel?

Not passing a bowel motion at least every second day (ideally daily)

  • Hard stools that are difficult to pass
  • Stools that are pellet like
  • Pain with passing a bowel motion
  • Pain after passing a bowel motion
  • Bright red blood in your stool
  • A history of haemorrhoids or anal fissure (tearing)
  • Abdominal discomfort or pains
  • Fatigue and generally feeling unwell

Health Issues Long-Term of Having a Sluggish Bowel

The issue with having a sluggish bowel long-term is that it can lead to the following health concerns:

Diverticular disease – is a common condition that results in stretching of the large bowel wall leading to the development of pouches in the wall. These pouches collect faecal matter and can become infected called diverticulitis. Around 5 per cent of 40 year olds have diverticular disease and this number increased to around 30 per cent of 60 year olds.
Faecal incontinence – this is where you lose ability to control bowel motions. This can be a significant problem and affects around 1 in 20 people. Constipation can be a significant contributor and/or exacerbating factor in the development of faecal incontinence.
Pelvic floor weakness – straining to pass a bowel motions can weaken the pelvic floor. This can lead to pelvic discomfort and problems with rectal prolapse.
Haemorrhoids – straining can cause weakening of the rectal veins in the anal region. When this happens small grape-like structures called haemorrhoids form internally and/or externally in the anus/rectum. These can be itchy, painful, and bleed when passing a bowel motion.
Anal tearing (fissure) – straining can cause tearing of the anus. This causes pain and discomfort when passing a bowel motion.
Bowel cancer – there is some evidence to show that long-term constipation can cause bowel cancer and tumours of the bowel to form.
Bowel obstruction – when the bowel becomes blocked with hard faecal matter it can become obstructed to normal flow. This causes severe pain and in some cases can lead to death from bowel perforation.

Health TIP

Fruits high in fibre are usually those with an edible skin such as pears, apples, stone fruit and kiwi fruit.

#healthyhabits #healthyliver

Dr Cris

Holistic Medical Doctor, Author ‘Healthy Habits, 52 Ways to Better Health

Healthy Habits book Dr Cris