Noticing blood in your stools is alarming! Most people fear the worse when this happens and suspect it is a symptom of a serious medical condition such as cancer. However, there are many causes of blood in your poo and the first step is not to ignore it but to visit your doctor.

One of the most common causes of blood in the stools is haemorrhoids (piles) or an anal fissure – a small tear in the skin around your anus. In these cases, the blood will be bright red indicating that it originates from near your anus and the bleeding can be made worse by constipation and straining.

If your doctor diagnoses piles as a cause of your blood in the stools, ensure that your diet is not making any constipation symptoms worse. Drinking plenty of water, taking exercise and eating fibre can provide constipation relief and may be enough to prevent the recurrence. Do not strain on the toilet, it really can make the situation worse. Wait for a strong urge to go to the toilet and when you feel the muscles relax, it’s time to push. Straining is bad in a whole host of ways!

If the blood is dark, the problem originates from higher in your digestive system and may originate from your colon. Diverticula are small pouches in the colon (large intestine) that contain blood vessels. If these are weakened and burst, they will cause sudden bowel bleeding. Diverticulitis is also common medical condition, which can cause bowel bleeding. This occurs when the diverticula become infected and in most cases, it can be treated with antibiotics. Eating more fibre will help improve these conditions but it needs to be managed in conjunction with your Doctor’s careful advice.

Angiodysplasia can cause rectal bleeding. It is caused by the blood vessels of the colon becoming weakened and enlarged leading to painless bowel bleeding and is a condition, which often affects older people.

Some medication can cause blood in the stools. Warfarin is a blood-thinning agent, which prevents against blood clots and can cause internal bleeding so it is important to mention your medication when you see your doctor.

Bowel bleeding can also be caused by gastroenteritis and show up in diarrhoea. This usually passes once the illness has passed.

One of the first symptoms of colon cancer is bowel bleeding. This cancer is hard to detect and usually blood in the stools is the first warning. Bowel cancer can be treated if caught earlier enough, so if you notice blood in the stools it is important to take immediate action.

Many people find visiting the doctor to talk about this most private function very embarrassing. However if you have experienced bowel bleeding or have noticed blood on your toilet paper, it is important to take action and get checked out by your doctor immediately.