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A Change in Bowel Movements: What it Might Mean

Would you consider yourself “regular”? Or do you suffer from bouts of constipation or diarrhea . . . or maybe both? What determines a regular bowel movement, and how do you know if you fit the bill when it comes to your bathroom activities? And, if you see a change in your regularity, what might that mean? Keep reading for answers to all of those questions and more!

What determines a “regular” bowel movement?
A “regular” bowel movement is difficult to nail down to an exact scientific rule.  At the basic level it should be a natural process as well as relatively easy.  One should not need to use chemicals or make an effort to have one.

What determines an “abnormal” bowel movement?

Although each individual is unique and defines their own normalcy when it comes to bowel movements, physicians agree that there are definite signs and symptoms to determine an abnormal bowel movement.

If you are experiencing a low frequency of bowel movements of less than three times per week, this could be reason for concern.  Take a minute to assess your eating habits and diet.  Are you eating enough fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables and fruit? Are you drinking at least eight glasses of water daily?  Are you taking in more caffeine than usual (caffeine can cause dehydration)? If nothing has changed significantly in your diet or eating pattern and you’re still experiencing a low frequency, visit with your doctor or healthcare provider to determine if there’s a more serious underlying cause.

There are many symptoms in addition to low bowel movement frequency when one is experiencing constipation.  Constipation is often accompanied by bloating and discomfort, as well as hard and dry stools that are difficult to eliminate.

There is more to constipation than feeling uncomfortable; it is dangerous because it stops the body from discharging toxins and parasites in the lower intestines and colon. It can potentially lead to cancer of the colon if it’s a recurring problem and left without medical attention.

Diarrhea is defined as watery, loose bowel movements that occur more than three times per day.  Diarrhea can be caused by many factors such having an infection, taking certain medications and eating tainted food.

Although diarrhea is not a normal body function, it can be your body’s way of trying to free itself of a certain type of bacteria or virus.  Medical treatment should be sought if the diarrhea is lasting more than three days in combination with fever, severe stomach cramps, headaches, dehydration or blood in the stool.

Color, Shape and Consistency
A sudden change in your bowel movements in regards to changes in color, shape, or even consistency can also point to an abnormality.

An obvious sign for seeking medical attention is when there is blood in the stool.  There may be many factors for this occurring, such as a mild condition like hemorrhoids or something more serious like colon cancer.

The color of the stool is very significant for determining an abnormal bowel movement.  For example, red stool can mean hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or even colon cancer.  A black stool can be created due to intestinal bleeding.  If your bowel movements are moving too slowly through your colon the color of your stool will be green.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is another abnormal bowel movement condition characterized by bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea.  It is often caused by stress but does not cause permanent harm to the intestines or lead to damaging disease such as cancer.  IBS is commonly treated through changes in diet, stress management or even prescribed medication.

If you’re seeing a change in your bowel movements, it is probably a good idea to get it checked out by your doctor or other healthcare professional. It might not be serious, but remember . . . an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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