Healthy bowel / HARTMANN Information Centre


Healthy bowel

We all take for granted our bladder and bowel function until something goes wrong. This is human nature. It can be devastating if we are affected by issues relating to continence, bladder and bowel function.

Here is some information to aid knowledge about how a healthy bowel should function.

The bowel is split between small (ileum) and large (colon) bowel and they have a combined length of 23 feet (around 7m). The bowel is a vital organ for maintaining health and wellbeing and due to its complex structure, there are many things that can go wrong.

A healthy bowel should empty three times a day to three times a week. The bowel does not need to empty every day and bowel movements may depend upon our activities. It is important that you report any unexplained changes to your bowel habits immediately to your GP.

When you open your bowels, you should not strain or experience pain or bleeding. If you do, see your GP immediately.

The bowel needs good hydration and a healthy fluid intake should average around 1.5 litres per day. It is important that a healthy balanced diet is adhered to. The Department of Health recommends a daily fibre intake of 18-30g per day. This encourages regular bowel movements and the passing of healthy stools. Look on food packaging for a guide to how much fibre is in your daily diet. Some examples of everyday foods and their fibre content are:

Food Portion size Fibre content (g)
Bread - white 1 slice 0.5
Bread - wholemeal 1 slice 2.1
Baked Beans Per 100g 3.7
Apples 1 2.6
Carrots 1 medium 1.6
Rice - white 75g 0.3
Pasta - wholewheat 75g 6.0

Regular exercise also aids a healthy bowel as movement stimulates the digestive system which helps food move throughout the bowel encouraging healthy bowel movements.

What is a healthy stool?

Bristol stool chart

Type 4 is classed as healthy as this is the product of a healthy diet and fluid intake.

If you have any involuntary leakage from your bowel, or any other symptoms which cause you concern, please consult your GP or continence service who can assess your symptoms further.