Can lifestyle changes improve your bowel health?

Talking openly about our poo isn’t always likely to result in the most mature of discussions among friends and family members. However, toilet humour aside, letting loose about our bowel movements is nothing to be ashamed of, particularly as 40 per cent of the population have at least one digestive symptom at any one time.

As Anna finds out from Colin and Daren, while common conditions such as constipation and IBS provide rather different lavatory experiences, simple lifestyle and dietary changes can greatly improve the motion of our stools – not to mention reduce the risk of bowel cancer by up to 50 per cent. Bran for breakfast has never sounded more appealing!

In the latest episode of Health Fact vs Fiction, Anna Richardson is joined by Colin Elton and Daren Francis, consultant colorectal surgeons at HCA Healthcare UK, to get to the bottom of bowel health.

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Episode 9 - Getting to know your bowels

If you want a good healthy bowel, you need to have a good healthy diet. What goes in comes out. It's as easy and as basic as that.
Mr Daren Francis

Consultant Colorectal Surgeon

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Colin Elton and Daren Francis

Mr Colin Elton and Mr Daren Francis are both consultant colorectal surgeons at The Wellington Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK.  

Mr Colin Elton has been an NHS consultant for more than 16 years, his NHS base is at Royal Free Hospitals NHS Trust.  He works privately at The Wellington Hospital and The Wellington Digestive Centre.  His specialties include colorectal cancer surgery, robotic surgery, HIPEC surgery, colonoscopy, hernia repairs in adults and children, and abdominal wall reconstruction. 

Through his NHS work he set up a one-stop colorectal service and was the clinical lead for endoscopy. Although his surgical workload provides a very busy schedule, Mr Elton is also committed to training.  He organised a teaching programme which trains surgical registrars in hernia repairs and laparoscopic cholecystectomy and has organised courses for students and junior doctors. Colin has taken part in various media opportunities including Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies.


Mr Daren Francis’ work at The Wellington Hospital and The Wellington Digestive Centre, includes all aspects of colorectal surgery in addition to the management of the complex abdomen, recurrent cancer and robotic surgery. Mr Daren Francis is the sub-council lead for lower GI at HCA UK. He also specialises in general surgery including both open and laparoscopic hernia repair as well as upper and lower GI endoscopy. 

Mr Francis has a strong academic interest and has published papers in several peer-reviewed journals in the fields of colorectal and general surgery.  In addition to this, Daren is the general surgical advisor to BAFTA award-winning BBC drama Holby City and has also worked in this role for other television productions including ITV's Harley Street. 


Things we learn in this episode

Do you want to be at one with your number twos? And do you know what your poo says about you? In this episode of Health Fact vs Fiction, Anna Richardson is joined by two of HCA Healthcare UK’s consultant colorectal surgeons, Colin Elton and Daren Francis, to get to the bottom of bowel health.

Bowel Fact

Forty per cent of the population has at least one digestive symptom at any one time. Although no one likes to talk about their bottoms, Colin and Daren discuss the importance of being more open about bowel problems.

Bowel Fiction

Constipation is something you suffer with as you get older. Colin explains women and the elderly are more commonly affected by constipation, but more and more children are developing it as well.

Bowel Cancer Fact

Changing your lifestyle can reduce your risk of bowel cancer. Of the nearly 42,000 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year in the UK, it is estimated 50 per cent were preventable by lifestyle and diet changes. Colin and Daren tell Anna that making healthier dietary choices can decrease the risk of bowel cancer.

Haemorrhoid Fact

Three-quarters of us over the age of 45 are likely to develop haemorrhoids. Colin and Daren explain what haemorrhoids are, how we get them and why they are so painful.

Bowel movement Fact

If you have blood in your stool you should go to your GP. Colin and Daren advise if you notice changes in your bowel movements to visit your GP as soon as possible.

More about IBS, haemorroids and colon cancer

What to do next

Wellington Hospital facility

The Wellington Digestive Centre 

The Wellington Digestive Centre treats the whole range of upper and lower gastrointestinal conditions, which include the oesophagus, stomach, colon and rectum. 

At the heart of this specialist digestive centre is a JAG-accredited Endoscopy Centre, who work with each consultant to ensure their patients receive the highest levels of care. 

Using the latest robotic technology, to the most advanced video endoscopes The Wellington Digestive Centre can investigate, diagnose and treat digestive problems rapidly, as there are no waiting lists, and you will normally have your report the same day. 

Contact us

If our podcast topics have inspired you to seek further advice, our team will be happy to make an appointment for you with a consultant. 

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020 7079 4344
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