Maintaining Healthy Bowel Habits


Passing a regular soft formed stool (poo or faeces) without straining on daily basis is an excellent way to start the day. However, many people experience great difficulty passing a bowel motion and spend a lot of time sitting on the toilet with a very unsatisfactory result.

The reason for this slowing of your bowel action is often constipation, a common condition in the community and a significant burden for both individuals and health care systems. The prevalence of constipation is thought to be as high as 1 in 3 adults and is recognised as either chronic or sub chronic constipation.

healthy bowel habits diagram

Do you have constipation?

Over the past 3 months:

  1. Have you experienced a sensation of incomplete evacuation of your stool for at least 25% of the time you pass a bowel motion?
  2. Are your stools like dry hard lumpy pebbles which you can only pass with lots of straining and/or pain at least 25% of the time when you pass a bowel motion?
  3. Have you felt bloated or nauseated and have had less than 3 bowel motions a week?

If you said yes to one or more of these symptoms, then according to the gold standard definition for constipation (ROME III Criteria) you are likely to be suffering from chronic constipation and would benefit from adopting healthy bowel habits.

Maintaining healthy bowel habits is the best way to relieve constipation and the following simple strategies will help to re-establish a regular and healthy bowel routine.

Top 6 healthy bowel tips

  1. Introduce a regular moderate intensity physical activity program for at least 30 minutes each day to stimulate peristalsis (muscle contractions to move food through digestive tract) and increase the transit time for faecal matter to move through your bowel.
  2. Increase your fluid intake to 6-8 glasses (1.5–2 litres) of non-caffeinated fluids each day to help the stool remain moist and soft.
  3. Increase your fibre intake to 25-30 grams each day to bulk up your stools and encourage bowel motions to be soft and easy to pass with minimal odour.
  4. Sit on the toilet for approximately 20 minutes after you eat a meal to maximise your chances of passing a bowel motion and stimulate your gastrocolic reflex (your body’s signal to your colon to empty food).
  5. Ensure you maintain the correct toileting position to open your bowels by leaning forward and placing your elbows on your knees, keep your spine straight, make sure your knees are higher and wider than your hips (you may find a footstool helpful) and avoid straining or holding your breath as you pass a bowel motion.
  6. Use laxatives, purgatives, or aperients to loosen stools, increase bowel motions, and treat and prevent Please note, laxatives will vary in how they work and the side effects they may have on you. If the laxative dose is too high, it may cause diarrhoea.

Laxatives fall into a variety of categories according to the action they have on the bowel:

  • Stimulants – stimulate bowel movement
  • Bulking Agents – increase the bulk of the stool
  • Osmotic Agents – add moisture to the stool
  • Stool Softeners – soften the stool
  • Lubricants – facilitate the ease of passing a stool

Independence Australia stocks a wide range of laxatives that are often recommended by your Doctor, especially if you are prescribed medications that are known to have a potential side effect of constipation.


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