5 Steps to Managing Bowel Incontinence

Dianna Malkowski
by Dianna Malkowski, Physician Assistant & Nutritionist

If you’re caring for someone with bowel incontinence, or experiencing it yourself, you’re not alone. Approximately 18 million U.S. adults, about one in 12, experience fecal incontinence, according to a study published in “Gastroenterology” in 2009. 

Fecal incontinence can be caused by diarrhea, constipation, disease, injury to the nervous system, a damaged sphincter, loss of muscle strength, poor overall health or even a difficult childbirth. Rather than feeling embarrassed about bowel incontinence, talk to your doctor about the many treatments available. Here are some things to think about.Follow eating and drinking guidelines. Eat small, frequent meals to avoid hyperactive bowel movements, and drink water to prevent constipation. Add fiber to your diet to soften your stool and improve digestion, and get plenty of bulk, in the form of bananas, yogurt and rice, to give you soft yet solid stool. Avoid foods and drinks that irritate your bowel, which may include spicy or oily foods, alcohol or caffeine, as well as dairy products if you’re lactose-intolerant.

Engage in a bowel retraining program. Your doctor may suggest you retrain your body to defecate at a certain time every day or perform exercises to strengthen your anal sphincter.

Briefs or Adult Diapers With Tabs
Use products made for bowel incontinence. Many people with fecal incontinence prefer to wear disposable briefs because they offer maximum protection and have tape tabs for easier changing. In addition to regular changing, it’s important to keep skin clean and moisturized, to avoid breakdown that can lead to infection. Consider hygienic, disposable washcloths made for bowel incontinence, combined with an emollient protectant that helps skin heal. Visit our Incontinence page to compare products and learn how to change briefs.

Ask your doctor about medications. She may prescribe antidiarrheal drugs, anticholinergic medications, opium derivatives, laxatives or stool softeners. She may also suggest the use of enemas to loosen fecal impaction.

Consider surgical interventions. In severe cases of bowel incontinence, your doctor may suggest surgery to repair or replace your sphincter, add a colostomy bag, or recommend surgery to correct underlying conditions such as hemorrhoids.

Dianna Malkowski is a Board Certified Physician Assistant and Mayo Clinic trained nutritionist specializing in diabetes, cancer, wound healing, therapeutic diets and nutrition support. She serves on the board of professional advisors for The CareGiver Partnership and enjoys working with patients and caregivers alike. Ask Dianna a question, or for one-on-one help with products, call 1-800-985-1353 M-F 9-4 CST.

Source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Fecal Incontinence


Functional Incontinence said...

This is surely a good source of information to those who suffered this condition. Great tips.!

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