Bowel Incontinence

The causes of bowel leaks and how to manage them with the right protective hygiene products.

What Is Bowel Incontinence?

If you're unable to control your bowel movements or you experience stool (feces) leaks, you may have bowel – or fecal – incontinence. Bowel incontinence is considered heavy leakage because it involves more than urine. Bowel leaks are not a disease, though you still want to address them as they can be a symptom of other conditions, or a side effect of different medications, diet and nutrition habits, or lifestyle changes.

Don't Be Afraid to Talk About It

Bowel leaks can make you feel self-conscious, for sure. But they're also relatively common, and they can be related to underlying medical conditions which need attention. Try to get your courage up and talk about it with your healthcare provider. He/she has heard it all before so you don't have to feel uncomfortable, and you'll be able to get the right treatment plan which will improve your quality of life. 

Causes of Bowel Leakages

Muscle and nerve damage due to a variety of circumstances can have an effect on your bowel control. It's nothing to be embarrassed about – you didn't do anything wrong. Read this list below to learn about the varied causes of bowel leaks.

Common Causes: 

  • Muscle damage caused by childbirth
  • Nerve damage from childbirth, bowel movement strain, spinal cord injury or stroke
  • Scarred or stiffened rectum due to surgery, radiation treatment or bowel disease
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Chronic constipation
  • Diarrhea

Options for Treatment/Management of Bowel Leakages

There are some simple treatment options for your condition. As always, you'll want to discuss these further with your healthcare provider to decide which feels right to start: 

  • Behavioral Changes
  • Changes in Your Diet
  • Medication 
  • Surgery
  • Protective Hygiene

Behavioral Changes

Keep a Bowel Diary

Want to make the conversation with your doctor easier? Try keeping a bowel diary, like the one shown here. Using this tracking system, you can record your bathroom habits and incontinent episodes. For each incident of leakage, indicate the amount of feces lost; S (small amount), M (medium amount), or L (large amount). This diary can also help your doctor assess your symptoms and determine the best treatment for you. 

Changes in Your Diet 

Fire Up the Fiber

Some foods and beverages can help reduce bowel leakage. Consuming fiber is extremely important, as it contributes to improved bowel habits. Try eating more of the following high-fiber foods:

  • Oat bran
  • Applesauce
  • Non-irritating juices, including grape, cranberry, cherry, and apple
  • Water

Water is the ideal beverage choice for dietary health and bowel hygiene. Want to know more? Check out our Diet and Incontinence guide to learn about dietary health in bladder and bowel control.  

Medication 

Doctor Knows Best

Some medications can help with your bowel incontinence. Others might make it worse. It's always best to ask your healthcare provider if there's something out there that might be right for you. You can also talk about any current medication you might be on, and how that would interact with a new prescription. As always, let the experts lead the way.

Surgery

An Option to Discuss 

Surgery is by no means necessary to experience improved bladder or bowel control. If you'd like to pursue it as an option, be sure to carefully consider the benefits and risks with your healthcare provider, as it is an aggressive option that can lead to side effects.

Upgrade to Protective Hygiene

The Best Way to Manage Bowel Leakage

Just like deodorant or toothpaste, protective hygiene briefs can help keep you feeling fresh and comfortable. Try changing out the product as soon as possible following a leak to minimize odor and moisture. As with bladder leaks, remember to thoroughly cleanse the skin before applying the new product. Need help finding the right product? Check out our incontinence Product Finder tool to determine the solution that fits you best.

Contact Your Healthcare Provider for Help with Bowel Incontinence

It's always a good idea to get started by putting in a call to your healthcare provider. Together, you can determine the best treatment options that can help you improve your everyday life. When you take control of incontinence, leaks can't stop you from living life to the fullest. 

Learn more about the treatment options you can explore with your doctor in our Incontinence Treatment guide.

 

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Have a question? Our eNurse team is here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether you're experiencing leaks for the first time, caring for a loved one with incontinence, or a veteran healthcare professional with questions, our team of licensed nurses have heard it all, and are ready to lend their confidential, respectful, and personalized expertise at any time.

Contact us anytime at 866-573-3776 or chat with us live Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. ET.