Intestine and bowel

Up to a quarter of the UK population experience some alteration in their bowel habit or faeces from time to time and 10% will have experienced blood in the faeces. A referral to a Gastroenterologist is often recommended in this situation, particularly to exclude bowel cancer in patients over 50 years of age or if the symptoms are persistent or progressive. Younger patients are more likely to have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with symptoms of lower abdominal pain, bloating, distension, gas and rumbling inside, mucus or difficulties with the passage of faeces.


IBS sufferers can experience diarrhoea, constipation or alternating between the two as well as a number of other symptoms not usually connected with the gut, such back pain, headache, tiredness. Older patients may have IBS-type symptoms associated with diverticular disease. Coeliac disease, a condition which causes impaired digestion, affects 1% of the UK population and can mimic symptoms of IBS. So too can Inflammatory Bowel Disease, such as Colitis or Crohn’s Disease, particularly when mild. These conditions can give rise to low-grade symptoms over several years before an accurate diagnosis is made.


Weight loss, tiredness, anaemia, progressive  or persistent pain should always prompt further investigation. 20% of older patients who are investigated with a colonoscopy may be found to have polyps, benign growths in the bowel, and removal of these will reduce their lifetime risk of bowel cancer. The following information sheets give further detail on these conditions.


Irritable bowel syndrome


Ulcerative colitis


Crohn's disease


Diverticular disease


Colonic polyps


Coeliac disease

Contact information


NHS practice

Gastroenterology department

Musgrove Park Hospital



01823 344980


Private Practice

Somerset Nuffield Hospital

Staplegrove Elm



Appointments: 01823 286991 

Secretary: 01823 250640 


Consultation times


Monday 6-7.30 pm

Friday 9-12 am



Patient info

Everything you need to know about your visit to the doctor.

See more about patient information