No longer at your convenience – BBC report confirms demise of public toilets

The BBC has published new research which shows that public toilet services have declined dramatically. Meanwhile, research also shows that more than 50% of people with gut health problems, including IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), fear not being able to get to a toilet in time and need to know where the toilets are located whenever they go out.

PrecisionBiotics, whose team first discovered the live 35624® culture present in the supplement Alflorex, which is clinically proven to reduce abdominable pain, bloating, gas and unpredicatable bowel movements, says the emotional impact of such fears cannot be underestimated.

The BBC reported that: “Public toilet provision has been declining for a number of years and the BBC has learnt that some UK high streets and tourist hot spots now no longer have any council-run public toilets. At least 673 public toilets across the UK have stopped being maintained by major councils since 2010, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information law.

“In 2018 there were 4,486 toilets run by major councils in the UK, down from 5,159 in 2010 and in 37 areas, major councils no longer run any public conveniences at all.”

The other study shows that 46.3% of UK respondents said their IBS has made them feel depressed, while 65.2% say their IBS has made them feel anxious and 53.6% say their self-confidence has been lowered.

According to PrecisionBiotics, this can mean a vicious circle and actually exacerbate the symptoms of the condition in many sufferers.

IBS sufferer Vikki Gael, who works for Nestle, said: “IBS was affecting my job and eventually it got so bad that it took over my life.  ​I would constantly be scanning my surroundings for a toilet to ensure that I wouldn’t be caught short. ​ One time at work, I was faced with a terrifying moment – we’re a small team and we only have one toilet between us.  I felt my usual cramps coming on and ran to the loo but it was occupied.  I knew I didn’t have long so had to run around the plant looking for another toilet to use. I was petrified I wouldn’t make it in time, but thankfully I found one just in time.”

IBS is a chronic and relapsing gut health disorder estimated to affect up to 1 in 7 people in the UK.   Symptoms can include unpredictable bowel movements, abdominal pain bloating and gas.


Think you’re suffering from IBS? Don’t ignore the symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects around 20% of people in the UK (maybe more, given the wide range of symptoms associated with the condition and taboos about talking about them). It can be painful, causing frequent tummy discomfort, wind, bloating, and constipation, alternating with bouts of diarrhoea.  The condition can impact a person’s quality of life, leading to anxiety and affecting their daily activities.


What’s more, new research* published by the makers of Alflorex on 2 April at the start of IBS Awareness Month revealed that Brits are burying their heads in the sand when it comes to gut health, with more than 1 in 6 (18%) of the 2,000+ people surveyed, admitting they have never visited a doctor despite suffering with a bowel issue. The results also show that only 46% of Brits actually know all the symptoms of IBS.

According to Precision Biotics, our refusal to seek professional medical advice immediately to help ease the symptoms of IBS has resulted in nearly 3 in 10 Brits (28%) soiling themselves in public, nearly a quarter (23%) passing wind in a meeting, nearly 1 in 5 Brits have passed wind during sex (19%) and 17% of Brits having to carry two sets of clothing because of soiling or bloating.

In fact, nearly half of those surveyed (48%) revealed that they put off going to the doctor if they suspect they have IBS or a gut problem, with 48% hoping that the issue would stop naturally, and more than 3 in 10 (31%) feeling too embarrassed to go.  Over 70% of 35-44-year olds regularly suffer some form of bowel issue.  An under-whelming 16% of Brits would go to the doctors after experiencing symptoms.

Sitting on the problem

Bowel conditions and the symptoms of constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence, and other activities that take place in the ‘private’ realm of the toilets remain heavily taboo topics in Britain. Therefore, embarrassment is a continual theme surrounding gut health, the Alflorex research revealed that even if their gut was causing them severe pain, nearly 4 in 10 Brits (38%) would feel uncomfortable discussing bowel issues with their boss, and a further 37% would be uncomfortable talking to their colleagues about it.basic-1239215_1920

The research reveals that stress is the biggest trigger of IBS/gut problems (41%), followed by diet (29%).  Those suffering with IBS/gut problems have had to make a series of adaptions in order to feel comfortable.  1 in 5 Brits have had to research public toilets before leaving the house, and a further 40% have had to carry spare toilet roll and carry spare underwear.

Over half of Brits surveyed (52%) have found themselves needing the toilet while in public and unable to find one, meaning that over 6 in 10 Brits (66%) have had to go into a pub/restaurant to use their facilities, nearly half (49%) have pretended to be a customer to use a toilet and 18% have had to run in public trying to find toilet. Distressingly 35% of adults admit to being caught short while needing the toilet in public.

In the quest for a remedy, 84% of the public have tried a probiotic treatment, and over half of those suffering from IBS (53%) believe the most important benefits for a treatment of IBS/gut problems are that it treats the cause not just the symptoms. Product_Capsules_UK_672x535px

According to Precision Biotics, Alflorex does just that.  The supplement is said to be the result of more than 17 years of clinical research and is clinically proven to address the root cause of the condition and alleviate the symptoms associated with IBS – bloating, abdominal pain and unpredictable bowel movements like diarrhoea and constipation.

The 35624 culture in Alflorex is the only bacterial strain to have shown reduction of symptoms in two well-controlled clinical trials led by scientists and gastroenterologists in the UK and Europe.   As a result, it is the number one recommended probiotic by US gastroenterologists and was winner of the Best Natural Product and Best GI Product in the Irish Pharmacy News OTC Awards for 2016-17.

Pamela Spence MNIMH
Pamela Spence, medical herbalist and Holistic Scotland Magazine columnist

For more advice on coping with IBS, including natural remedies, see our May issue in which our columnist and medical herbalist Pamela Spence will be talking about some of the herbs we can incorporate into our daily lives to help reduce the symptoms. Did you know, for example, that fennel is the top remedy when it comes to IBS-induced bloating and wind?