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What is a bowel diary?

A bowel diary is a record of when the person normally passes bowel motions. It's often used to collect information as part of a continence assessment. A bowel diary may also be used at different times during a continence treatment plan to see if the plan is working.

It is important to fill out the diary carefully, so that the information can be used to plan the person's continence care.


The person should be involved in managing their bowel diary as much as possible. Work out what things they can do, for example, looking at the bowel motions and choosing what number it is on the Bristol Stool Chart.

What information does a bowel diary collect?

The bowel diary shows:

  • how many times a person passes a bowel motion
  • the type of faeces the person passes each time - this can be identified using the Bristol Stool Chart
  • whether the person is soiled before they get to the toilet (faecal incontinence)
  • whether the person felt the need to go at the scheduled time
  • if the person wears a continence pad, how many times it needs to be changed
  • whether the continence pad is already soiled when the person gets to the toilet
  • if the bowel motions change with the food and fluids the person is having when compared to a food or fluid intake diary (a record of what food and drinks the person has in the same time period).

How do you fill out a bowel diary?

A bowel diary is usually kept for seven days in a row. It should be filled out using the person's normal routine.

Every bowel motion is recorded during the time you are asked to fill out the diary.

If the person is out or flushes the toilet before you see the bowel motion, note on the diary the date, time and that the person passed a bowel motion but that it wasn't seen.

Other things to think about:

  • If the person has a commode, they can use that instead of the toilet, as the pan will catch the bowel motions. Some people don't like to use the commode during the day, however, and you need to respect that even if it's easier for you.
  • You may be asked to record the food and fluids the person consumes during the time the diary is kept. The diary may have room to write this down, or you may need to write it on a separate diary. This can be kept in the kitchen so that the time, as well as the type and amount of food and liquid can be written down as the person has it.

Remember that for the information to be useful, you need to fill in the diary as carefully as possible.

If you have any problems filling out the bowel diary, ask the person who wants to diary for help.

Need more help? Call the National Continence Helpline on 18OO 33 OO 66 and talk to a continence advisor.


Extra Resources

Take the Quiz

Question 1

The Bristol Stool Chart

shows what food people eat

is scary to look at

helps to identify the type of bowel motions passed

shouldn't be used, as no one will know what it means.

Question 2

A bowel diary is usually kept for:

seven hours

seven days

seven weeks

seven months.

Question 3

A bowel diary:

helps to work out the person's usual pattern of passing bowel motions

means you need to take the person to the toilet evey hour

is too much work so you shouldn't do it

means you need to collect all the bowel motions for a week.

Question 4

When a bowel dairy is filled out:

the person shouldn't be allowed to help

you should work out what the person can do to help

you should make sure the person is kept sitting on the toilet all day

you don't need to write down the time the person has a bowel motion.

This information is not a substitute for independent professional advice.