Love Your Gut Week is coming up (16th-22nd September) and this year, it’s all about tackling the ‘talking taboo’ around gut health – something that you guys will probably know by now I’m very passionate about. Whether it’s constipation, diarrhoea, IBS or pooping on your period (just a few of my favourite topics!), it’s time we got chatting.
Shockingly, despite 48% of people currently or previously experiencing persistent gut issues, nearly one in four (24%)* haven’t seen their GP about the symptoms. A key reason? Embarrassment.
I totally get it, we have been raised in a society where talking about our pooping habits was discouraged. The result? Not only are too many people suffering in silence, but we are losing so many lives to gut diseases.
The answer? We need to help each other out to boost our confidence when it comes to talking about our digestive health. It’s time we all had some real #GutTalk without the embarrassment. No one should have to put up with bothersome gut issues.
So, time to get comfortable with talking about your pooping habits and get rid of the taboo!
For those suffering, being able to talk about it can feel like a huge relief and reassurance that they’re not alone – but it’s also super important to get any necessary treatment as soon as possible to rule out some of the more serious conditions like coeliac disease and bowel cancer.
If you’re feeling a little reserved about talking to your healthcare professional, here are my top tips on how to open up about your gut health:
There’s no need to be shy about sharing your inner most secrets (literally) with your GP or healthcare professional – remember we’ve heard it all before and discuss these things day in, day out, so it’s a totally normal topic of conversation. It’s like talking about the weather to me! If you’re worried about others finding out, rest assured healthcare professionals are bound by a code of ethics, which means all our discussions are kept strictly confidential.
Struggling to describe your symptoms? Try to explain what’s happening and where you’re feeling it, there is no need to sugar coat it. Time to add diarrhoea, constipation, poops, farts, burps, vomit and more to your vocabulary – and don’t worry about being too graphic, the more detail the better if you ask me.
If you can, go with a clear idea of what your poop looks like (check out the Bristol stool form chart) and how often you poop. Taking some notes with you can help you to remember.
Let us know when your symptoms first started, as there may be some useful clues or triggers that will help your healthcare professional get to the bottom of it (no pun intended).
It can be a good idea to keep a food and symptom diary for a couple of weeks beforehand (I share a handy template with my book and Love Your Gut has one here), so you can show it to your healthcare professional – as well as a record of any previous test results.
When should you seek medical advice?
If you’re getting gut symptoms regularly and experiencing any of the following red flags, make sure to see your GP to check it’s not anything alarming as soon as possible.
Unexplained weight loss (more than 5 percent in 6 months)
Unexplained low blood iron levels (which can lead to unexplained tiredness)
Any blood in your poop
Any changes in pooping habits for six weeks (especially for those over 50)
If we all shared these warning signs with just ten of our closest friends and family, and encouraged anyone suffering to speak to their doctor, we could save over 300 lives a year. This is because early diagnosis can be life-saving, so why limit it to just ten people? Let’s get sharing these red flags with our wider networks too.
My friends behind Love Your Gut Week – Guts UK charity, Bowel & Cancer Research, St Mark’s Hospital Foundation, The IBS Network, Bowel Disease Research Foundation and the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology – have also created a free #GutTalk Guide, as well as a resource pack for healthcare professionals that you can download at www.loveyourgut.com. And remember we’re always here at The Gut Health Clinic to support you get your tract back on track.
Now over to you guys! Have you had a positive experience talking to someone about your gut health? Please join in and share your stories below to get rid of the social stigma. Doing so may very well help someone in this community more than you’ll ever know.
*Based on a survey of 2,079 respondents across the UK and Republic of Ireland (1829 UK/250 ROI) between 7th and 10th August 2018, on behalf of the Love Your Gut campaign.
Full disclosure: this post is part of a sponsored partnership with Love Your Gut, a cause that is very close to my heart.