Bowel Incontinence

Bowel leakage, or incontinence, effects 3% of people but increases with increasing age, and is twice as common in women as men.  It has a significant negative impact on quality of life.  Many women who suffer from bowel incontinence avoid social interactions and are even too embarrassed to speak about it to their doctor.  In fact, bowel incontinence is the most common reason for moving into a nursing home.

How do you know if you have?
If you are experiencing uncontrollable leakage of stool, then you have bowel incontinence. Diagnosing the cause of incontinence begins with a careful review of symptoms, and this is usually done using a questionnaire. A pelvic exam may allow your physician to make a diagnosis, although in some cases, further studies are needed.  These include Endoanal utrasonography & Mannometry

If you have been diagnosed
You can make improvements in control of bowel incontinence by making lifestyle and behavioral changes. For many women, a healthy diet and fit lifestyle can really make a difference.

Be Diet Savvy
Women with bowel leakage find it helpful to reduce bowel irritants and artificial sweeteners. Bowel irritants include caffeine found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola and some energy drinks. Alcohol and spicy foods, as well as raw vegetables may cause muscle spasms in the colon, which can make you suddenly, feel like you have to defecate.  Avoiding these foods and eating regular small meals may help you to control your bowels better.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
Learning how to control and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles will help you reduce or even eliminate bowel leakage. Pelvic muscle exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, help with leakage caused by physical activities and also with urgency. Women with mild to moderate symptoms experience the greatest improvement. Like any other form of exercise, improvement is a reflection of good exercise technique and dedication to doing the exercises regularly. Pelvic Floor Physiotherapists are helpful for learning these exercises.

Treatment options
 Most women with bowel incontinence find relief with non-surgical treatments.  This includes dietary changes, medications, and physiotherapy.  Neuromodulation is another option for some women with bowel incontinence. A small subset of women who have suffered injury to their anal sphincter during childbirth may benefit form a surgical repair.