Learn More About the Bowel and its Function Bowel

How Does the Bowel Work?

The large bowel (colon) is the last part of the bowel, consisting of several units, such as the rectum and anal canal. The main function of the large bowel is to absorb water. The digested food becomes stool (also known as feces or poop) that is transported to the rectum and then out of the body through bowel movements.

What are Normal Bowel Movements?

How often you have a bowel movement differs from one individual to another. Anything from three times a day to three times per week is normal and healthy. Temporary changes in bowel movements are common. If you persistently have fewer bowel movements than three times per week and you feel bloated or have painful defecations, it could be a sign of constipation.

What is Normal Stool?

The consistency of the stool may vary depending on food and water consumption, lifestyle, physical exercise, medications and infections. The Bristol stool chart is an aid used by healthcare professionals to assist in the assessment of bowel function. It describes different shapes and types of stools:


Type 1-2 indicate constipation
Type 3-4 are ideal stools which are easy to pass
Type 5-7 may indicate diarrhea and urgency (and increase the risk of bowel leakage)

What Happens When the Bowel Doesn’t Work?

The bowel may cause a problem for many of us every now and then, but we usually feel better after a few days. But for some, the problems persist. Living with bowel issues is challenging and may impose restrictions on quality of life, when it comes to social life or just going to work. Sadly, these things are also difficult to talk about. Nevertheless, it is important to discuss these problems and seek help from healthcare professionals.

With support and the right treatment, you can actually get your life back. Filling in this questionnaire may help the dialogue when meeting with your healthcare professional.

Questionnaire 1 in total

Related conditions

In some cases, people living with a serious condition or injury may also experience problems connected to the bowel. Here you can read more about related conditions.