When it comes to complaints about the gut, it may not always be obvious that a customer potentially has symptoms of something more serious. Many customers view symptoms associated with the gut – including constipation, diarrhoea and bloating – as minor complaints.

Our pharmacists may ask a number of questions to gather more information and help identify if symptoms require further investigation. How long have you experienced these symptoms, do you have any other symptoms, what is the severity, do the symptoms do come and go, how often and can you identify triggers?

Non-serious gut complaints can often be diet related, such as eating food that has not been prepared properly or eating spicy food. Excess caffeine, alcohol and sudden changes to diet can also cause temporary changes to the gut, which may cause changes in bowel movements.

The biggest ‘alarm bells’ for a pharmacist are symptoms that persist or occur frequently, particularly without any obvious cause. A change in the colour of the stool – either very light or darker than usual should be investigated. A customer may be referred to their GP and suggested to take an at home bowel cancer screening kit.

For good gut health, you should eat a balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and sources of fibre. Staying hydrated is also important. Be aware of your gut health and see a health care professional if there are any changes.

At home screening for bowel cancer, using an easy take home test, is also recommended from age 50 as bowel cancer is highly treatable if caught early.