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Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Q: I have a question regarding my stool. It is not normal, but is in pieces, which are small and sometimes elongated. I am in no pain or discomfort. I have not lost weight or changed my eating habits. It started about a year ago. I had a colonoscopy six months ago. Everything was OK. I am a female, 64 years old. I have been eating a lot of whole wheat and lots of vegetables and fruits.
My doctor does not appear to be concerned, but I am. Could I be allergic to certain foods? I am not sure what to do.
A: Changes in bowel movements mean that either there’s been a change in the diet or a change in the bowel. Thin, elongated stool is very worrisome for a partial blockage in the large bowel, especially due to colon cancer, so a colonoscopy was exactly the right test to do.
Given that the colonoscopy was OK, I would be concerned about a change in diet. Your diet did not change, but for others, if a dietary change was made about the same time as bowel movements did, it would be pretty clearly the cause. However, conditions like irritable bowel syndrome often cause changes in bowel habits — sometimes causing constipation or loose bowel movements; sometimes both, alternating.
Food allergies usually bring on abdominal discomfort, nausea or vomiting. Celiac disease can cause variable bowel changes, especially diarrhea.
If you were experiencing weight loss, abdominal pain or other significant symptoms, your concern might be justified. Since you are otherwise well, try keeping a food diary to see if you can identify which foods worsen your symptoms.
Dr. Roach’s column runs in Tuesday’s Extra.
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