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How healthy are your bowels? [QUIZ]

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How much do you know about what produces motion or mayhem for your bowels? Take this simple quiz to find out. By Kathryn Terrill.

Knowing what aids bowel motion is a golden ticket to good digestive health, especially if you are prone to constipation. Being constipated can feel frustrating, and reliance on laxatives is definitely not ideal.

Test how well versed you are on your own bowel health, so you can be sure that you are doing all you can to keep things moving.



 Q1. Which of these substances is most likely to aid bowel elimination if consumed daily?

  1. alcohol
  2. prunes
  3. carrots
  4. rice

Q2. Which activity is most likely to increase the risk of constipation?

  1. travelling by plane
  2. rowing in a boat
  3. riding a bike
  4. having a bath

Q3. Which food is most likely to improve bowel health, and therefore healthy bowel movements?

  1. banana
  2. natural yoghurt
  3. organic chicken
  4. almonds

Q4. Which of these foods is most likely to increase the risk of constipation?

  1. egg sandwich
  2. pasta salad
  3. roast beef
  4. apple pie

Q5. Which of these natural substances is most often recommended to get the bowels moving?

  1. protein powder
  2. psyllium husks
  3. spirulina
  4. goji juice

Q6. Which of these nutrients is most recommended to keep bowels regular?

  1. monounsaturated fats
  2. branch chain amino acids
  3. vitamin b6
  4. soluble fibre

Q7. What is considered ‘regular’ bowel movements?

  1. every 2 to 3 weeks
  2. every 2 to 3 months
  3. several times a day
  4. once or twice a day

Q8. Which of these substances is most likely to ease constipation?

  1. pure water
  2. hazelnuts
  3. soy milk
  4. chocolate biscuits

Q9. A healthy bowel movement is:

  1. slightly runny
  2. hard and solid
  3. soft and dark brown
  4. soft, well formed and easy to pass

Q10. Normal stool (poo) colour is:

  1. green, grey, brown or black
  2. pink, blue, red or orange
  3. light brown or dark brown


How well did you do? Here are the answers.

Q1. Prunes is the correct answer. Prunes contain a natural laxative as well as being high in fibre. They are easily purchased from a supermarket or health food store and are delicious as a daily addition to your muesli, yoghurt or fruit salad for breakfast. Prune juice is an alternative, but just be aware that both the fruit and the juice are relatively high in sugar, so just stick to a small portion such as 2 -3 per day or a small glass. Carrots and rice (except highly processed white rice) may also help as they contain fibre. Alcohol may increase bowel movements, but probably because it is irritating the digestive tract. Alcohol is dehydrating, so it may also have the opposite effect. Either way, it’s not a good substance to improve motion – it’s more likely to produce mayhem!

Q2. The correct answer is travelling by plane. Many people do not drink enough fluids while travelling and aeroplanes are very dehydrating. Also, a change of environment is a common cause of constipation, as changes in time zones, climate, food, and mood can impact on the body’s regular rhythms. Make sure you drink plenty of water while travelling to help keep you regular. Activities that involve movement such as riding a bike and rowing may actually help to keep your bowels moving, and having a nice relaxing warm bath may help to tell your bowels that you are relaxed and give them permission to move any waste they may have been holding onto, particularly if you have been feeling stressed.

Q3. The correct answer is natural yoghurt, provided that it is good quality. Natural yoghurt contains probiotics, or good bacteria, that help to keep your bowel healthy. A healthy bowel is a regular bowel. Although the other foods are also good for health, natural probiotic yoghurt is most recommended for bowel regularity.

Q4. Roast beef and other red meats contain very little fibre, so if eaten in excess or without high fibre foods, may lead to constipation. Although not fantastic for improving bowel regularity, the other foods in this question contain some fibre, so are likely to be less constipating. It is important to realise that everyone is different,  so making a note of what you have eaten in a food diary (don’t forget to include fluid intake) and recording bowel habits can provide valuable clues as to which foods are best for you.

Q5. Psyllium husks are a safe, inexpensive way to introduce more fibre into your diet and are available in most health food stores and some supermarkets. They are a tasteless plant husk and are usually taken as a teaspoon in a glass of water or juice daily.

Q6. Soluble fibre is a type of fibre naturally present in plant foods, and it gets its name for its ability to attract and hold water. Foods containing soluble fibre help to keep stools moist as they pass through the bowel, increasing their transit time, and making them easier to pass.

Q7. The correct answer is once or twice a day. There is quite a variation in what is considered ‘regular’ and ‘normal,’ but the main thing is that stools are well formed, easy to pass and there is little pain and discomfort associated.

Q8. Pure water is one of the best preventatives for constipation. Adequate fluid is important for keep the stools moist enough to pass through the bowel efficiently. It is also the cheapest and most simple way to keep the bowels regular!

Q9. The correct answer is soft, well formed and easy to pass. Although soft and dark brown may be a healthy stool, it is important to realise that healthy stool colour may vary, and a healthy stool is not too soft. Hard stools can be difficult to pass, and slightly runny stools can indicate some form of irritation in the digestive tract.

Q10. The correct answer is light brown or dark brown. Healthy stool colour can vary, based on the foods consumed. Grey or black stools may indicate a health problem, so see a health professional if concerned.

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