3 Steps Toward Successfully Managing IBS-Related Incontinence

Dianna Malkowski

by Dianna Malkowski, Physician Assistant & Nutritionist

In recognition of IBS Awareness Month, read on for three steps toward successfully treating and managing incontinence caused by irritable bowel syndrome.

The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) designates April as IBS Awareness Month. IBS is estimated to affect 9 to 23 percent of the world’s population, according to IFFGD, yet many remain undiagnosed. 

There are several reasons IBS goes undiagnosed, including the condition being misinterpreted as aging-related changes and difficulty discussing such a personal topic with caregivers.

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. In cases of IBS-related incontinence, it’s imperative to first manage irritable bowel syndrome. Here are three steps toward a successful outcome:

1. Because IBS symptoms can range from mild to severe, it’s important to learn about the condition. Symptoms — which often occur after eating — include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and passing mucus. In addition to physical symptoms, some individuals experience depression and anxiety.

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 National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).

2. IBS is diagnosed based on patterns rather than standard tests, so it’s helpful to keep a record of symptoms to discuss with a doctor. IFFGD recommends keeping a diary for one to two weeks to identify factors that cause or worsen symptoms. 

The diary approach also is used to achieve better outcomes in treating incontinence. An IBS food journal will include noting foods and beverages that worsen symptoms, as well as a record of liquid intake and bathroom habits.

Visit IFFGD to learn more about IBS and download a free informational packet.

3. IBS often can be managed through diet, stress reduction and/or medications. For the best results, treatment goals should be discussed with a doctor, who will help develop a plan appropriate for the patient and explore options for managing severe pain if needed. When necessary, a doctor or nutritionist will create an eating plan to gradually increase fiber while successfully managing urinary or bowel incontinence.

Individuals who experience temporary or long-term urinary or bowel leakage can manage their condition with products made for incontinence. Options include disposable or reusable absorbent undergarments, skin care products that protect against exposure to moisture, reusable swim pants for all ages, underpads for bed and furniture, and more. It’s important to work with an experienced online retailer that provides one-on-one customer service and the opportunity to try samples before buying.

Explore our site to learn more about incontinence, use the free Incontinence Product Finder tool and access more than 1,500 caregiver resource links. Or simply call a product specialist at 1-800-985-1353 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Central Standard Time.

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.


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