Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
Bowel incontinence is a very embarrassing topic to discuss with your doctor. Also known as fecal incontinence, this condition means that stool leaks out of the anus. But you don't have to let embarrassment get in the way of learning about the treatments for bowel incontinence that will help you feel better and get back to your life.
What is bowel incontinence?
The rectal area is made up of muscles that help hold back stool until it is time for elimination, and nerves that give you the sensation or feeling that it is time to go to the washroom. When any of these muscles or nerves does not function properly the stool can leak through the anus, causing much inconvenience and embarrassment. This in turn can keep you isolated from the people and activities you enjoy.
Some of the most common causes of bowel incontinence include constipation or diarrhea. Damage to the rectal nerves and muscles affect how you know it is time to have a bowel movement. As well, the rectum can lose the ability to stretch enough to temporarily store feces. Women often suffer damage to the pelvic region during childbirth. Men and women can also find that surgery, hemorrhoids, old age, a prolapsed rectum can result in bowel incontinence.
It can be very embarrassing to bring this topic up with your doctor. Nobody wants to talk about this sensitive issue. But there is no need to have to suffer any further. Your doctor can discuss various treatment options to help control the effects of bowel incontinence and prevent it from ruining your life. The most common options include:
Changes to your diet
Many cases of bowel incontinence can be brought under control by making some simple changes to your eating habits. Eating smaller and more frequent meals will help ease up on the digestive process in the bowels. Ensuring you get enough fiber and liquids every day is the key to having stools that are easy to pass, as constant straining to push hard stool can damage the rectal walls.
Keep a food diary for a couple of weeks to notice any foods or beverages that may cause increased bouts of constipation or diarrhea. You may need to eliminate foods such as caffeine, spicy food, cured and processed meat, or dairy. Other foods to avoid include greasy and fatty foods, artificial sweeteners, and alcoholic beverages as all of these can irritate the bowels and affect elimination. Drink plenty of water as well.
After several months or longer, your bowels may no longer function normally.
You can retrain the bowel and rectal muscles to function more smoothly by establishing a regular time to eliminate. It can take a while, but by persistently sticking to a set time, you can train your bowels to stick to a schedule. Remember to pick a time where you are least likely to skip or ignore the urge to go as this will only negatively affect bowel movement habits.
There are medications out there to help add bulk fiber or soften stool that can help prevent constipation. It is very important that you discuss using any medications with your doctor. Normally medications are used in the short term because using too much medicine for too long can severely impact the bowel's functions and even lead to laxative abuse.
In some cases, you might need to have an operation to repair any damage to the anal sphincter muscles. You might also need to have any hemorrhoids removed or have a prolapsed rectum repaired. In the most extreme cases, your doctor may want to perform a colostomy as a last resort. This operation involves cutting the colon, then taking one of the loose ends and putting it through the abdomen. The stool is eliminated from the body through this colon into a bag and this may be a temporary or permanent solution.
There are many treatments options to help you deal with the frustration and shame of having bowel incontinence. Talk to your doctor for a correct diagnosis and to learn about what treatment is best for you. Understanding this problem no one wants to discuss can help take the discomfort of out your discussion and more importantly your life.
This article originally appeared under my pen name on another writing site. I have elected to share this information with Menopause site readers.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You