At Symprove HQ we spend all day every day discussing all things guts, nothing is considered off limits or TMI. Yet in recent research of 1,000 adults, we found that 54% said they were embarrassed when it comes to talking about stomach issues. With 50% then going on to say they didn’t think it was an appropriate topic to discuss openly. We want to change that.
We think it’s time to put any awkward British embarrassment to one side and start having those candid conversations. We’re saying #ItTakesGuts to talk about your gut. We’ve enlisted the help of NHS GP’s Dr Chris George and Dr Sarah Jarvis, who are both fascinated and passionate about the importance of gut health, to help arm you with everything you need to know.
"The taboo around gut health may stem at least in part from playground 'toilet jokes'. But opening your bowels is a universal activity that is essential for health. By talking more openly about gut problems, and by listening sympathetically to others with these issues, we can all play a part in reducing stigma and making people feel more able to seek help.” Says Dr Sarah Jarvis.
Let’s start with the basics, what is the gut?
Stretching around 8 metres (about the length of a London bus), you can think of your gut as a long hollow tube, which extends from mouth to bottom. Still curious, find out how the gut actually works.
So, what does a healthy gut look like?
“Signs of a healthy gut include regular bowel motions which varies from person-to-person (anything between 3x per day to 3x per week is considered normal), motions should be easy to pass, soft and medium to dark brown in colour.” Says Dr Chris George.
And the gut microbiome?
Dr Sarah Jarvis explains “The gut microbiome is a mix of trillions of bacteria, viruses and yeasts that live in the gut – mostly in the large bowel. While we tend to think of bacteria as a risk (because of the infections they cause) the gut microbiome is crucial for normal gut health and development. The bacteria in your microbiome help with speed of transit and absorption of nutrients as food passes through. They also provide essential amino acids, vitamins and short-chain fatty acids.”
She continues “There has been increasing research in recent years into the 'gut-brain axis' - the organisms of your gut microbiome produce a wide range of chemicals that interact with the immune system and the nerves in the gut. They can also be absorbed through the wall of the gut into the bloodstream and reach the brain. There is increasing research into the role of the gut microbiome on mood and mental health. In addition, the gut contains almost 70% of the body's immune cells, which means that the gut microbiome can have an impact on immunity to infection.”
We told you it was fascinating and we’re only getting started.
Find out Dr Chris George’s easy ways to support your gut here
But how do I talk about it without feeling embarrassed?
In the research conducted by OnePoll, 50% said they didn’t think it was an appropriate topic to discuss with people openly, and 52% didn’t think people would understand the extent of the problem.
To avoid an awkward conversation regarding stomach issues 50% had tried to change the subject as quickly as possible and 38% have upped and left in the middle of a conversation.
We know #ItTakesGuts to talk about your gut, so here’s some tips on getting started:
- Arm yourself with knowledge about why gut health is important
- Get familiar with the Bristol Stool Chart and where your poo sits
- Keep a diary noting any symptoms and the factors
- Join the conversation across social using the hashtag #ItTakesGuts sharing your gut story
- And encourage others to do the same
If I notice something’s not quite right, how do I talk to my doctor?
Let’s start with Dr Sarah Jarvis “If you think you have an issue, you should speak to your doctor. You may find it useful to keep a detailed diary of your symptoms, diet and lifestyle to help them pin down the possible causes of your symptoms. They will want to examine you, ask questions about other symptoms and may arrange tests.”
And Dr Chris George “I would strongly encourage anyone to come forward who is worried as we would rather hear from people than find out they have been suffering unnecessarily in silence. When it comes to your appointment keeping a gut-symptom diary, looking at the Bristol Stool Chart, bringing a close friend/family member, or even writing down your concerns are all very useful in helping your doctor investigate your symptoms.”
He continues “Most of the time gut symptoms can be easily managed and treated with a routine appointment but if you have any of the following symptoms then please make sure you book an urgent GP appointment:
- Change in your usual bowel habit
- Blood in your poo or from your bottom
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness
- A lump/pain in your tummy"
We’re here with you every step of the way.
Here’s your challenge, we want you to join us across social media and tell us your gut story using the hashtag #ItTakesGuts. Because we all poo. And it’s about time we started talking about it.
P.S We counted 5 mentions of poo, 3 mentions of motions, 3 of stools, and 5 bowels in this blog. And not once did we blush while typing it.