Healthy Bowel Habits

This year, The Continence Foundation of Australia urges people not to sit on a problem. Signs such as constipation, straining, haemorrhoids or diarrhoea can indicate an underlying problem and it’s better to seek advice sooner rather than later.

What is good bowel function?

  1. You should be able to “hold on” for a short time after you feel the first urge to open your bowel.
  2. You should be able to start a bowel action as soon as you sit on the toilet. You should not have to wait or strain to start a bowel action. Straining is one of the worst things you can do, as it weakens the muscles that control your bowel.
  3. You should be able to completely empty the lower bowel—the rectum—when you have a bowel action.

How do you maintain good bowel function?

  1. Good toilet habits: Knees higher than hips, lean forward and put elbows on your knees, push out your belly, straighten your back.
  2. Fibre: Have a diet high in fibre. 30gm per day is recommended.
  3. Fluid: Drink at least 1.5 – 2.0 litres of fluid per day, preferably water.
  4. Exercise: Daily exercise of 30 minutes per day will stimulate to bowel.
  5. Avoid constipation.

What is Faecal Urgency?

Faecal urgency is the sudden, strong urge to use your bowel.

What is Faecal Incontinence?

Faecal incontinence refers to leakage from the bowel, or a bowel accident. It is due to the loss of bowel control. Loss of control can refer to gas, liquid or solid wastes (stool). Signs of leakage can range from smears to total loss of bowel contents.

Bowel quiz

Please circle “yes” or “no” for each question.

  1. Do you:
    1. Find it hard to hold on for a short time after the first urge to open your bowel starts? YES  NO
    2. Need to sit on the toilet for a while before you can start a bowel action? YES  NO
  2. Do you often:
    1. Feel that your bowel is not quite empty when you finish a bowel action?  YES  NO
    2. Find it hard to control gas from your bowel? YES  NO
    3. Have a sudden, overwhelming urge to use your bowel? YES  NO
    4. Have soft or loose bowel actions?   YES  NO
    5. Try to use your bowel when the urge is NOT strong? YES  NO
    6. Often have drinks or food with caffeine? (, tea, cola, chocolate)  YES  NO
    7. Take any of these: antacids; pain-killers with codeine; drugs for depression, allergies, Parkinson’s disease or arthritis? YES  NO
    8. Lean back or sit up straight to open your bowel? YES  NO
    9. Itch or have sore areas around your anus (back passage)? YES  NO
    10. Strain to empty your bowel? YES  NO
    11. Open your bowel less than three times a week? YES  NO
    12. Use your fingers to help empty your bowel? YES  NO
    13. Have leakage from your back passage? YES  NO

If you answered yes to any of these questions you should discuss you bowel health/habits with your Doctor or a Continence Physiotherapist.

Where do I find a Continence Physiotherapist?

Eileen Lavis is a Continence and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist at Rathmines Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Centre. A doctors referral is not required to see Eileen. All appointments are conducted in a private room and the initial consultation will take approximately an hour.

Services are covered under the Physiotherapy component of Private Health Insurance, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Medicare (please ask for more details at reception) and some Workcover and Third Party claims.

For an appointment please enquire at reception or call Rathmines Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Centre on 4975-1622.


Looking After Your Bowel – Continence Foundation of Australia, 2010.