No, you don’t have to poo every day: eight things nutrition experts want you to know

Bowels, bacteria, brain power … gastro specialists share their wisdom in bitesize form

It’s a widespread misconception that we need to open our bowels every day, first thing in the morning. People worry, but there’s a big variation between individuals – it’s just not something that they want to talk about. What’s really important is knowing what’s normal for you: everybody should monitor their bowel function as part of looking after your digestive health.

IBD and IBS may sound alike, but they are very different

The two main types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease: these are lifelong and sometimes major inflammatory conditions affecting the gut. The important thing to note is that they are common, affecting about one in 100 people – and increasing as well. It’s really important to get a timely diagnosis, but often there can be a delay, because the symptoms can be vague.

Particularly in the case of Crohn’s disease, the symptoms can overlap with those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) like bellyache, fatigue, unintentional weight loss – the unintentional bit is important – and sometimes diarrhoea or an abscess around the bum. For ulcerative colitis, the symptoms can be more overt because there can be blood in the poo, or having to dash to the loo, both of which normally alert people that something is wrong.

But the symptoms can be different in different people, and they can come and go. People will think: “Oh, it’s stopped, I’ll leave it”. Likewise they might know someone with Crohn’s and think “I haven’t got that” – but it might be presenting differently for them. If any of those symptoms are present, even if they are coming and going, that is the moment to seek attention, the sooner the better. 

Professor Ailsa Hart, consultant gastroenterologist and director of inflammatory bowel disease research, St Mark’s Hospital, London


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