The traditional British reserve could be putting millions of people at risk from illnesses such as colorectal cancer and colitis, new research has shown.
People are often too embarrassed, or simply do not have enough medical knowledge, to speak up about their digestive health, the study from probiotic drink maker Yakult found.
The results, released to coincide with the start of the 10th annual Gut Week, showed that 80% of people would seek advice if they noticed a change in their eyesight, yet 40% would not even consider getting help if they noticed a change in their toilet habits, despite this being an important indicator of potential health problems.
Television programmes have recently put the spotlight on embarrassing symptoms of all sorts of diseases, but talking about bowel movements is still a taboo topic, with just under half (49%) of people saying they would talk about their bowels with their partners.
While digestive problems such as constipation and stomach aches can be short-term, colorectal cancer still kills thousands of people a year. It is the UK's second biggest cancer killer with about 100 new cases diagnosed each day.
Gut Week is an annual campaign organised by Yakult in conjunction with digestive health charities Core and The Gut Trust.