Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is a condition that affects "between 7 and 15 out of 100" people. Bowel incontinence is embarrassing, limiting social and professional engagements and affecting mental health. Here's what you need to know.

What Is Bowel Incontinence?

Bowel incontinence is an inability to control bowel movements leading to an unintentional loss of stool in unexpected places. It can happen to anyone at any age, but it is more common in people over 65. It can be stress-induced or caused by muscular or neurological damage compromising the sphincter or rectum's function.

What Causes Bowel Incontinence?

There are several potential causes of bowel incontinence, including:

  • Weak or Damaged Sphincter Muscles 
  • Chronic Diarrhea
  • Nerve Damage to the rectum and anus 
  • Chronic Constipation 
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease 
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn's disease.
  • Pelvic floor disorders, including rectal prolapse

Can You Prevent Bowel Incontinence?

While it may not always be possible to prevent bowel incontinence, several preventive measures can reduce the risk of developing this condition, including:

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet to help keep stools soft and regular.
  • Exercising, which can help maintain bowel regularity and healthy muscles and nerves.
  • Avoiding irritants like caffeine, alcohol, or spicy foods that can increase bowel movements or cause diarrhea.
  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the rectum and sphincter muscles, reducing the risk of bowel incontinence.

Additionally, pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles around the rectum can prevent pelvic floor disorders.

How Do You Treat Bowel Incontinence?

Several treatment options are available for patients depending on the cause and severity of bowel incontinence. The goal of treatment is to improve the patient's quality of life. These options include:

  • Medications. Some medications, like bile-salt binders, can alleviate diarrhea symptoms.
  • Bowel training. Patients can re-train their bowels to minimize accidents. Some methods include rescheduling bowel movements, Kegel exercises, and biofeedback to improve muscle tone and relaxation.
  • Surgery. In cases where bowel incontinence is caused by muscle or nerve damage, a surgical repair or a sphincterotomy may be necessary.
  • Diet modifications. Changes in diet, such as a high-fiber or low-fat diet, can help manage bowel incontinence for some patients.

Bowel incontinence should not be a reason for you to live a life of embarrassment or discomfort. Understanding the causes and preventive measures can help. 

Speak with your doctor if you suspect bowel incontinence to find the best treatment for you. With effective management, you can manage your bowel incontinence symptoms and live life to the fullest.

For more information on bowel incontinence, contact a professional near you.