1 in 4 too embarrassed to ask doctor for help with bowel problems

One in four have a question they’re too shy to ask their GP, according to a new survey.

Dulcolax, the leading constipation relief product, found that a quarter (26%) of those polled have a health question they are too embarrassed to ask their GP. For almost one in 10 (9%) it’s their bowels that are taboo, second only to sex (15%) as the most embarrassing topic they’ll avoid. A worrying number (6%) say they backed out of asking their GP a question about their bowels because they were too embarrassed.

So experts from Dulcolax and the charity Beating Bowel Cancer have teamed up to answer the nation’s embarrassing bowel questions: from “what is constipation?” and “what if it hurts to go to the toilet?” to “I have haemorrhoids, what should I do?.”


Following an online call for questions earlier this year, the experts, including a GP, a nutritionist and a nurse, have provided straight talking answers and advice about constipation and other bowel worries, which are available in two new films launched on www.letstalkconstipation.co.uk this month.

GP and medical adviser Jess Kalsi, who appears in the film, says: “People really are embarrassed, but they shouldn’t be. We all go to the toilet and all have problems from time to time. Constipation and other bowel worries have a real impact on how people feel and their confidence, and affect all of us occasionally. It may well be nothing, but to be certain it’s not a sign of something serious, it’s worth checking it out. GPs and nurses aren’t shocked easily and are here to help.”

Nutritionist and bowel expert Kate Arnold says: “There seems to be a lot of confusion out there. People used to think that you needed a poo every day, but in fact anything between three times a day and three times a week is normal. Be aware of what is usual for you, and look out for changes. People are suffering in silence. We need to get over that British ‘stiff upper lip’. Speak to someone as soon as you have a concern.”

Previous research from Dulcolax also shows that even if women experience a worrying change in their poo, two thirds would not talk to their pharmacist or GP, despite over three quarters (77%) saying they have suffered from constipation.

Nurse Jenny Wills, who works on the Beating Bowel Cancer helpline, says: “We get over 3,000 calls to our helpline a year and one of the main things we’re asked is ‘what’s normal?’. What’s normal is different from person to person and it’s important to be aware of changes to your bowel habits. If you’ve been experiencing blood in your poo or changes in your bowel habits for three weeks or more, it’s really important that you contact your GP.”

Dulcolax tablets, £2.24 for a pack of 20, provide predictable overnight relief from constipation. Available from pharmacies and supermarkets nationwide.

For further information about the symptoms of bowel cancer visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org.

Anyone who is worried or concerned about changes to their bowel movement should talk to their pharmacist or GP.

About the experts quoted here

  • Kate Arnold is a nutritionist and adviser to Dulcolax with over 17 years’ experience specialising in gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Jess Kalsi is a General Practitioner and medical adviser based in South West London. She trained at King’s College London.
  • Jenny Wills is a nurse and works on Beating Bowel Cancer’s helpline (08450 719301). She joined the charity in 2011 and qualified at St George’s Hospital in 1992.

About the films

The films are produced by Dulcolax and cover questions from the public, gathered via the www.letstalkconstipation.co.uk website in 2014. T

About the survey

The survey of 2,000 UK adults was conducted by Opinion Matters between 01/07/14 and 07/07/14.

About Beating Bowel Cancer

Beating Bowel Cancer is a leading UK charity for people affected by bowel cancer. They are dedicated to saving lives by working in partnership to improve public awareness of bowel cancer and to increase the rate of earlydiagnosis. They help patients access the treatment they need and provide emotional and practical support to improve the lives of everyone affected by bowel cancer. Visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org for more information.

About the partnership

Constipation relief brand Dulcolax and charity Beating Bowel Cancer know that many people suffer in silence because they are too embarrassed to talk about their poo, and yet constipation and other bowel worries affect millions of people. So the two organisations have joined forces to help raise awareness of bowel issues by encouraging people to talk.