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David asked...

Sluggish bowel movement

My bowel movement has become sluggish. No weight change, good appetite and generally fit. Hospital scans reveal no problem. Is it diet? I go for high fibre, but not excessive. Aged 69 and retired.

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The answer

A sluggish bowel occurs when the bowels peristalsis movements slow down and it takes longer for the stool to pass along the intestine and be excreted. The slowing down of the bowel means that the water content in the stool is absorbed by the body more, so stools become hard and difficult to pass. This is basically known as constipation.

  • Constipation can occur for a number of reasons:
  • Lack of fibre – e.g. fruit, vegetables and cereals
  • Change in lifestyle- e.g. changes to routine, immobility, anxieties, stress, trauma and illness.
  • Dehydration
  • Change in weight or being over or underweight.
  • Medication side effects
  • Medical conditions- e.g. IBS, Muscular Sclerosis, Cancer, Diabetes ,Parkinson’ s disease ,Fissures and Hypothyroidism

 Symptoms of sluggish bowel can include less frequent bowel motions, bloating, discomfort and sometimes pain.

Diagnosis can be made through medical history taking, rectal examination and tests like blood tests and X-rays to eliminate causative factors as well.

Treatment for this often includes initially increasing fluid and fibre intake as well as possibly reviewing medication use and introducing laxatives to help ease discomfort and aid the passing of bowel motions.

Exercising and trying to keep to a regular routine re diet and elimination may also help.

If all hospital tests have shown that there is no medical cause for your discomfort so we would suggest trying to make sure you drink more fluids and perhaps increase your fibre intake as well as continuing to exercise.

If the problem persists we would suggest returning to your GP to discuss your medication use and see if laxatives would be appropriate on a short term basis.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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