Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms
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Bowel cancer – a common form of colorectal cancer – is becoming increasingly common in Western countries. Risk factors are multi-faceted, but physical inactivity and excess weight are believed to be two major drivers of the disease. Sitting the wrong way during defecation may also carry a risk of bowel cancer, according to experts.
Doctor Deborah Lee, from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, notes that a great number of epidemiological studies point to chronic constipation as a major risk factor for bowel cancer.
What’s more, a staggering 63 percent of bowel cancer cases are concentrated in Western countries.
“One theory may be that Westerners sit on the toilet to empty their bowel, whereas, in developing countries, it is far more common just to squat,” explained Doctor Lee.
She continued: “Sitting is more likely to cause constipation than squatting.”
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“Squatting is a natural position for defecation, it is fit for purpose in many ways.
“Firstly, it allows gravity to do most of the work. When you squat, the natural weight of the torso squeezes onto the bowl, meaning there is less need for straining.”
Squatting allows the ileocaecal valve (the valve between the small bowel and the large bowel) to naturally seals itself off, whereas sitting prevents it from closing properly, making it harder to achieve the necessary internal bowel pressure to successfully pass a stool.
The puborectalis, which is the muscle bone attached to the pubic bone, is, therefore, better able to relax when squatting, explained Doctor Lee.
She added: “When sitting on the toilet, this muscle remains constricted – it is a pelvic floor muscle used to maintain continence.
“When the puborectalis muscle is not relaxed, when trying to defecate, you are straining against it.
“Squatting is said to reposition the sigmoid colon slightly, getting rid of a ‘kink, and hence allowing it to communicate more freely with the rectum.”
How to avoid bowel cancer:
“To reduce your risk of bowel cancer, don’t allow yourself to be constipated,” added Doctor Lee.
“Eat a blanked diet, full of fibre. UK adults should have an intake of 30 grams of fibre per day. Avoid high-fat, processed food.
“Opening the bowel regularly, without strain, is important for minimising the risk of cancer”, explains the expert.
The expert continued: “Some foods are excellent for your bowels – for example, kiwi fruit is an excellent food item as they have special properties to facilitate regular bowel opening.”
Regular exercise, too, may help stimulate gut transit time, adds Doctor Lee.
In fact, in previous studies, researchers have found evidence of fewer tumours among runners, compared to non-runners.
Bowel cancer symptoms
When bowel cancer develops, changes in bowel movements tend to be among the first symptoms a patient notices.
In fact, the NHS states that more than 90 percent of patients with bowel cancer experience changes in bowel movements.
Persistent changes in bowel habits can include pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos, and occasionally abdominal pain.
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