If you are one of the thousands of people who experience faecal, or bowel, incontinence at some point you are not alone. Some studies have found that 10 per cent or more of adults experience this condition, and there are many things you can do to prevent it.
If your bowel movements tend to be loose and watery, and come frequently, you may find that it’s worth considering some changes to your diet. For example, specific foods may be triggering your diarrhoea. Try cutting out or reducing these common triggers:
· cured or smoked meats
· spicy foods
· fatty and greasy foods
· dairy products
· sweeteners such as sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol and fructose (found in many diet drinks, fruit drinks, sugarless gums and candies).
It might also be worth considering taking a daily fibre supplement. This can be a simple but effective way to reduce faecal leakage. Over-the-counter products can be found most pharmacies, some of these dissolve more completely in liquids and are tasteless so can be added to any hot or cold liquid you drink — and you won’t know they’re there.
Drink plenty of liquid with the supplement to help control diarrhoea, the fibre absorbs the water and prevents leakage of watery stool.
Medications being taken could also be contributing to your diarrhoea and incontinence so it’s important to discuss all of your medications with your doctor. Your doctor may suggest an anti-diarrhoeal medicine. Loperamide (Imodium) has the added benefit of increasing muscle tone in the internal anal sphincter.
You can further strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor, including the anal sphincters, with specific exercises. Biofeedback can help you learn to do the exercises correctly. Biofeedback can also improve your ability to sense the presence of stool in your rectum. This, in turn, may allow you to get to a bathroom before the situation becomes desperate.
Talk to your doctor about which of these treatments might work best for you.
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) in the USA, as many as 70 percent of people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are not receiving medical care for their symptoms.
IBS symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea, and some individuals may experience depression and anxiety. Incontinence also 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.
The good news is, while IBS can cause severe discomfort, it does not permanently harm the intestines or lead to serious diseases like cancer, according to the NDDIC. Often, IBS can be managed through diet, stress reduction and/or medications.
“If you or someone you care for has symptoms of IBS, your doctor will ask for a complete medical history and a detailed description of symptoms, as well as perform a physical exam,” says Dianna Malkowski , a Board Certified Physician Assistant and Mayo Clinic trained nutritionist. “Before changing your diet, note the foods that worsen your symptoms, then discuss with a doctor and possibly a registered dietitian, who can create an eating plan to gradually increase fibre.”