Last Reviewed: October 2022
The bowels play an important role in maintaining your child’s general health from birth. Poo can tell us a lot about our body such as are we drinking enough and eating enough fibre.
Research shows many of us have no idea how to spot a common poo problem such as constipation. We find it uncomfortable to talk about and this can make it tricky to know if something is wrong and how to get help.
This page explains what a healthy bowel is and what normal poo should look like. There's also information on what can go wrong in our bowels and how you can help your child’s bowels work better.
How bowels work
The bowel is a long tube-like organ which is part of our digestive system. This system begins when we put food into our mouths. Chewing food into little pieces makes it easier to swallow.
Our stomach then mashes the food into a soupy mixture before it gets passed into the small bowel. The body takes out the good stuff it needs (nutrients) before passing the rest of the waste liquid into the large bowel.
We have strong muscles in our large bowel that squeeze poo along (this movement is called peristalsis). As it travels through the bowel, water is removed turning poo into a smooth sausage shape.
When poo reaches our bottom, it stretches the muscles of our rectum. This sends a signal to our brain to tell us that a poo is waiting to be released. It can help to think of this as an internal warning system giving us time to find a toilet and empty our bowel.