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- Other types of bowel irritation
Other types of bowel irritation
Radiation therapy to the pelvic area can make the bowel swollen and sore. This is called colitis when it affects the colon (the large bowel), and proctitis when it affects only the rectum (the last part of the bowel before the anus). You may feel the need to empty your bowels often, perhaps without much result. Straining can cause discomfort, and there may be blood or mucus in bowel motions. Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting are also common, but can be managed with medicines.
The small bowel may become irritated after chemotherapy or radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvic area. This is known as enteritis and it can cause abdominal discomfort (like cramps or wind pain), episodes of pale and fluid bowel motions, and more wind than usual.
How to manage bowel irritation
- Eat and drink slowly, take small mouthfuls and chew your food well to avoid swallowing air.
- Try a diet low in insoluble fibre to reduce bowel irritation in the short term.
- Avoid fatty, spicy or fried foods, and rich gravies and sauces.
- Reduce foods such as corn, beans, cabbage, onions, pickles and fizzy drinks, which can produce wind.
- Drink plenty of water, and eat soft or cooked peeled fruit, fine wholemeal bread and bran to provide soft bulk.
- Do some gentle exercise, such as walking, to encourage healthy bowel movement.
- Tell your doctor if symptoms don’t improve. Bowel irritation is usually temporary, with colitis and proctitis lasting up to 8 weeks and enteritis lasting 1–2 weeks after treatment ends.
Jenelle Loeliger, Head of Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rebecca Blower, Public Health Advisor, Cancer Prevention, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Julia Davenport, Consumer; Irene Deftereos, Senior Dietitian, Western Health, VIC; Lynda Menzies, A/Senior Dietitian – Cancer Care (APD), Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Janice Savage, Consumer.
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