5 Facts About Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Incontinence

Dianna Malkowski

by Dianna Malkowski, Physician Assistant & Nutritionist
April is IBS Awareness Month, as designated by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). IBS is estimated to affect 3 to 20 percent of the population, but less than one-third of those see a health care provider for diagnosis, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).

There are several reasons IBS often goes undiagnosed.  Diagnosing IBS presents unique challenges, as the condition can be misinterpreted as aging-related changes and the elderly often have a difficult time discussing this personal topic with their caregivers. Because many people have occasional bouts of abdominal discomfort, and IBS is diagnosed based on patterns rather than standard tests, it’s helpful to keep a record of symptoms.

Incontinence can be an effect of IBS, and here are five things everyone should know:

1. IBS symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea, passing mucus. Symptoms may often occur after eating. In addition to physical symptoms, some individuals experience depression and anxiety.

2. Incontinence can be an effect of IBS. While diarrhea can contribute to bowel incontinence, constipation can lead to urinary incontinence, because of the pressure put on the bladder by impacted stool. Individuals with IBS may experience temporary or long-term leakage, which can be managed with products made for incontinence.

3. While IBS can cause incontinence and/or severe discomfort, it does not permanently harm the intestines or lead to serious diseases like cancer, according to the NDDIC.

4. IBS often can be managed through diet, stress reduction and/or medications. It can be helpful to keep a food journal and note foods that worsen symptoms, liquid intake and bathroom habits.

5. It’s important to consult a doctor or nutritionist before making dietary changes. A nutritionist will create an eating plan to gradually increase fiber while successfully managing urinary or bowel incontinence when necessary.

Learn more about IBS at the IFFGD site, and find more than 1,400 helpful links in The CareGiver Partnership’s Caregiver Resource Library.

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 advisers for The CareGiver Partnership and enjoys working with patients and caregivers alike. Ask Dianna a question, or call 1-800-985-1353. Help support this ad-free blog by answering several questions about caregiving here. It will take just two minutes.

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