What’s normal?

overcoming fear of the blank page

I received a bookmark in the post on Friday for the new Australian Government website dedicated to bladder and bowel health www.bladderbowel.gov.au.


www.bladderbowel.gov.auThe new website is part of the National Continence Management Strategy and builds on the success of the National Toilet map. I love the Toilet Map. There are a number of toilet map initiatives on the web, such as the Bathroom Diaries, and Public Toilets dot org, but the Toilet Map is the only government funded map of its kind. Because it has funding, it’s very comprehensive (although the Find by Points of Interest section didn’t recognise the Sydney Opera House as a location. Hmm….)


The Bladder Bowel website has a wonderful section about ‘what is normal’. Did you know that your small bowel is 6 metres long?? I didn’t even know I had a ‘large’ bowel and a ‘small’ bowel!


How your bowel works

The bowel is the lower part of your food digestive system. It connects your stomach to your back passage, where waste materials (called bowel motions or faeces) are passed out of your body. The job of the bowel is to finish digesting food by taking up water and nutrients.

Your bowel has three linked parts:

  • Small bowel – mainly takes up goodness (nutrients) from broken-down food;
  • Colon – mainly takes up water as digested food passes through;
  • Rectum – stores waste material until it is passed through the back passage.

The small bowel is about 6 metres long. The large bowel, the name for the colon and rectum together, is a tube about 1.5 metres long. The small bowel is called ‘small’ because it is narrower than the large bowel even though it is longer.

Everybody has different bowel habits. Some of us empty our bowel 3 times a day. Others may empty their bowel 3 times a week. Normally each bowel movement should take a minute or so. At the end of a bowel movement you should feel empty.


I like that my bowel connects my stomach to my back passage. I like the idea of having a ‘back passage’. It makes me sound like an Edwardian country house.


Thanks for sending through the bookmark, Stevie! I’ll use it in “Clean and Decent” a book about the history of toilets and bathrooms that I’m currently reading. Review up here soon!

5 Responses

  1. ‘At the end of a bowel movement you should feel empty’. I’m flummoxed by this statement. Do they mean emotionally? Metaphyscially? My normal feeling at the end of a (successful) bowel movement is enthusiasm, a zest for the day, a notion of accomplishment. Instead should I be feeling a void, a lack, a dearth of meaning??

  2. I refer to this feeling as ‘Post Poo Euphoria’. My advice to you is never go grocery shopping whilst under the influence of Post Poo Euphoria.

    Just goes to show the government doesn’t know everything.

  3. My issue is more when Pre Poo Need hits during shopping. That feeling should only arise when you’re at home, preferably alone, and have some excellent reading material to hand.

  4. Dear Bog Logger,
    A friend of a friend has use her own toilet for her bowel movements and she always has to have a shower was she has finished. So if she’s out shopping or something, and she gets the urge to purge, she drops everything and drives home to use her own bathroom.
    Would you consider this neurotic?

  5. Dear Rayedish,
    I am personally amazed at people who cannot poo anywhere but in their own home. I do think it indicates an underlying neurosis or disorder. Having said that, so many people suffer from it that I suppose it must be relatively ‘normal’.
    I really think there’s a place for poo psychology and poo training for adults.

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.


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