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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Are these symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or should I have a colonoscopy?

    I am a 26 year old female with a strong family history of colon cancer with my mother dying at the age of 31. I have had two colonoscopies, the most resent of which was two years ago. Both showed no abnormalities.

    Over the past year or so I have had frequent flatulence, alternating bowel movements and some instance of bright blood in my stools. I have increased my fiber intake and also eat a yoghurt with a pro-biotic twice a day which has resulted in no notable improvements in my digestive behaviours. I have a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
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  • Bowel Cancer Australia is the leading community-funded charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and care for everyone affected by bowel cancer. We … View Profile

    Thank you for your enquiry.
    The symptoms you describe should most certainly be investigated by a Doctor.
    Any bleeding from the bowel must always be fully investigated. I suggest you make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can for examination.
    Considering your symptoms and your family history, your doctor may well recommend a colonoscopy.
    Further information about bowel cancer, family history and symptoms is available on the Bowel Cancer Australia website at:
    • Bowel Cancer: Risk Factors -
    • Bowel Cancer: Symptoms -
    Kind Regards,
    Bowel Cancer Australia Nurse Adviser
    Please Note: The information provided by Bowel Cancer Australia’s Nurse and Nutritionist Advisory Services is intended for Australian residents as a reference guide only. It is not a substitute for independent professional advice and is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or disorder.
    If you believe your symptoms are consistent with those of bowel cancer or a digestive illness, please consult your doctor.
    Bowel Cancer Australia, its directors, officers or medical professionals shall not be liable to any person, company or any other body for any loss, direct or indirect or consequential on whatsoever account for any omission or negligent misstatement.

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Blood in the stool is not normal, and I think it is a significant reason to visit your doctor especially with the history of your mom having bowel cancer at such a young age. You might have Irritable Bowel syndrome but I would recommend a colonoscopy as a precaution. I have given you a few notes on IBS and the symptoms.
    For many people, careful eating reduces IBS symptoms. Before changing your diet, keep a journal noting the foods that seem to cause distress. Then discuss your findings with your doctor. You may want to consult a registered dietitian who can help you make changes to your diet. For instance, if dairy products cause your symptoms to flare up, you can try eating less of those foods. You might be able to tolerate yogurt better than other dairy products because it contains bacteria that supply the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk products. Dairy products are an important source of calcium and other nutrients. If you need to avoid dairy products, be sure to get adequate nutrients in the foods you substitute, or take supplements.
    In many cases, dietary fibre may lessen IBS symptoms, particularly constipation. However, it may not help with lowering pain or decreasing diarrhoea. Whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of fibre. High-fibre diets keep the colon mildly distended, which may help prevent spasms. Some forms of fibre keep water in the stool, thereby preventing hard stools that are difficult to pass. Doctors usually recommend a diet with enough fibre to produce soft, painless bowel movements. High-fibre diets may cause gas and bloating, although some people report that these symptoms go away within a few weeks. Increasing fibre intake by 2 to 3 grams per day will help reduce the risk of increased gas and bloating.
    Drinking six to eight glasses of plain water a day is important, especially if you have diarrhoea. Drinking carbonated beverages, such as sodas, may result in gas and cause discomfort. Chewing gum and eating too quickly can lead to swallowing air, which also leads to gas.
    Large meals can cause cramping and diarrhoea, so eating smaller meals more often, or eating smaller portions, may help IBS symptoms. Eating meals that are low in fat and high in carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, whole-grain breads and cereals (unless you have celiac disease), fruits, and vegetables may help.
    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disease, that is, a disease in which the intestine (bowel) functions abnormally.

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