These Changes In Your Bowel Habits Could Be Red Flags

Plus: How to tell if your constipation is normal, or not.


Charlotte Huff and Alex Davies |

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide. In South Africa, it’s the fourth most common cancer in women. Once squarely an “old person’s disease”, colon cancer has begun circling a new target: you. As more and more young women are being diagnosed, WH reveals the surprisingly simple red flags that could save your life.

Watch: 8 Most Common Colon Cancer Symptoms In Women

No need for a microscope, but get to know your bowel habits, says gastroenterologist Dr Felice Schnoll-Sussman, and speak to your GP about any concerns.

1. Blood

Probably okay: Bright-red blood in the toilet bowl or on your paper post-pooping. It could indicate a small anal tear or a typically harmless haemorrhoid.

Probably Not: Darker blood (think maroon or almost black) that’s intertwined with stool might signal colon bleeding.

Watch: These 4 Things Can Help Your Gut Bacteria – And They’re Not Probiotics

2. Constipation

Probably okay: A stretch (even a week or two) of constipation or straining. Yes, we mean pushing like a pro with little to show for it. Hint: you might be dehydrated.

Probably not: Out-of-nowhere or prolonged constipation (more than a month), together with narrow or thin, pencil-like stools, which could mean a roadblock in the colon.

Watch: 8 Natural Laxatives That Actually Work To Relieve Constipation

3. Pain

Probably okay: Cramping or bloating that makes it hard to button your jeans.

Probably not: Daily pain fierce enough to interrupt your sleep or force you to change your routine. See your GP, stat.

Watch ON: Gut Issues Health Health Advice Health Conditions