How diet can improve or prevent faecal incontinence

If constipation or diarrhoea is the cause of faecal leakage, then paying attention to your diet can improve, and in some cases, resolve the issue

What is faecal incontinence?

Faecal incontinence is the term used to describe poor bowel control, which results in involuntary, accidental leakage of faeces. It’s also referred to as Bowel Incontinence. The amount can be just enough to stain your underwear (often occurring when passing wind), or it can be the complete loss of a bowel motion.

 

What causes faecal incontinence?

Urinary and faecal incontinence aren’t diseases on their own but symptoms of an underlying issue. Although it can feel embarrassing, speaking with your doctor to have the cause correctly diagnosed and treated is the best way to address any leakage. 

Causes of faecal incontinence can include:

  • Muscle and nerve damage, caused by childbirth or diseases like diabetes and multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle weakness, specifically a weak pelvic floor muscle, caused by childbirth, ageing, repetitive lifting of heavy weights, straining, chronic coughing, obesity, surgery or radiation therapy
  • Hemorrhoids (also known as ‘piles’), which is the condition where veins around the anus or in the lower rectum become swollen and inflamed, interfering with the sphincter’s ability to keep the bowel closed
  • Bowel disease like Crohn’s or Coeliac
  • Persistent constipation
  • Severe diarrhoea

 

 Constipation or Diarrhoea?

Although it may seem like the difference is obvious, many people suffering from what they believe is diarrhoea, is actually severe constipation. This occurs when matter becomes compacted in the bowel, and only liquid waste, sometimes called ‘overflow’, can pass, causing diarrhoea-like symptoms.

If you’re not sure, again, speak with your doctor who’ll be able to examine your abdomen and possibly refer you for an ultrasound to find out exactly which is the issue. A sample may also be requested to see if there’s an intestinal infection or other cause of diarrhoea which can be treated with medication.

 

 What to eat to improve faecal incontinence

  • A varied diet based on fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, and protein like eggs, dairy, fish, meat and nuts, is ideal
  • Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Dehydration is a key cause of constipation. Exactly how much to drink will depend on the weather, how much you exercise, your size and other factors, but aim for more than two litres across the day
  • Review your fibre intake if you’re suffering from constipation. Consider adding psyllium husks, dried fruit, prune juice or other known natural laxatives to your diet

 

Constipation or Diarrhoea?

Although it may seem like the difference is obvious, many people suffering from what they believe is diarrhoea, is actually severe constipation. This occurs when matter becomes compacted in the bowel, and only liquid waste, sometimes called ‘overflow’, can pass, causing diarrhoea-like symptoms.

If you’re not sure, again, speak with your doctor who’ll be able to examine your abdomen and possibly refer you for an ultrasound to find out exactly which is the issue. A sample may also be requested to see if there’s an intestinal infection or other cause of diarrhoea which can be treated with medication.

 

 

What to eat to improve faecal incontinence

  • A varied diet based on fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, and protein like eggs, dairy, fish, meat and nuts, is ideal
  • Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Dehydration is a key cause of constipation. Exactly how much to drink will depend on the weather, how much you exercise, your size and other factors, but aim for more than two litres across the day
  • Review your fibre intake if you’re suffering from constipation. Consider adding psyllium husks, dried fruit, prune juice or other known natural laxatives to your diet

 

 

What food and drink to avoid

  • Alcoholic and carbonated beverages
  • Caffeine
  • Greasy or fatty foods
  • Processed foods that are often overly refined (high in white sugar, white flour, etc.) and very low in fibre
  • Spicy foods, and chilli in particular

 

 

Food and drink to be wary of

  • Those containing artificial sweeteners, including chewing gum that can have a laxative effect
  • If dairy leaves you feeling bloated and windy, you may be having trouble digesting lactose. Try avoiding dairy for a while or switch to lactose-free products to see if the problem resolves
  • If you’re suffering from diarrhoea, pears and stone fruit could be an issue

 

 

Keep a Food and Drink diary

Response to food and drink can vary between individuals, so keep a record to discover what does and doesn’t work for you. Note when and what you eat and drink, as well as recording all bowel activity, both leaks and controlled bowel movements.

Check out the Bristol Stool Chart, which is the universal guide used by health care professionals to classifying the consistency of stools. Incorporate this into your diary so you can monitor any changes.

 

 

If you’re having difficulty determining what food and drink is having an effect, ask your doctor for a referral to a dietician who’ll be able to assist as well as tailor an eating program specifically for your needs.

 

 

Who’s prone to faecal incontinence?

Although it can happen to anyone, according to the Mayo Clinic in the USA, you’re more likely to experience faecal incontinence if you’re:

  • Over 65 years old
  • Female
  • Have nerve damage from chronic conditions like diabetes or multiple sclerosis
  • Have dementia
  • Have a physical disability

 

 

Managing faecal incontinence

As mentioned, if you’re experiencing any bowel leakage, you must discuss it with your doctor. Improving your diet, addressing any constipation or diarrhoea, drinking plenty of fluids and exercising should all help, but you may want the security of a disposable product while things are getting back on track. If your loss is small like a stain or smudge, a TENA liner may be all that’s required. TENA Pants look and feel like real underwear and are ideal for containment, with tear-away sides for easy removal after an accident.

There’s also TENA Duo, a liner shaped to fit inside TENA specialty urinary products. If a bowel motion occurs, the TENA Duo Protection can simply be replaced without having to discard the other, more expensive product. Soiled products should be changed as soon as possible as faeces can have an adverse effect when left in contact with the skin for extended periods.

Take advantage of our Product Finder Tool, and Free Samples to find the product that best suits you.

 

 

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Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.