Accidental Bowel Leakage – also known as ABL – is a condition few like to discuss. Like urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence is often considered a taboo subject. Both carry a stigma that’s hard to shake. Yet millions of people around the world struggle with ABL regularly. Today we’re going to discuss the 4 common myths about accidental bowel leakage as well as bowel retraining.
1: Accidental Bowel Leakage Only Happen When You Have Watery or Loose Stools
While issues like diarrhea can cause a strong sense of urgency, and can lead to leakage, other factors may be in play. Constipation can also cause ABL, as when large stools get stuck in the rectum, watery stools can leak around them. Further, regular bouts of constipation can stretch and weaken the rectum, making it difficult for you to hold stool long enough to reach a bathroom.
As a result, any damage to the muscles or nerves around the anus can create ABL issues. This includes things like:
- Haemorrhoid surgery
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal cord injuries
2: Only Older People Suffer from ABL
As with all incontinence, age does play a factor in ABL. However, leaking stools can happen to anyone with muscle or nerve damage to the anus. In fact, it can occur in people 40 and younger. Accidental bowel leakage is more common in the elderly due to decreased tissue and muscle elasticity, making it harder to hold a stool.
3: Accidental Bowel Leakage Isn’t Affected by Diet
Diet actually plays a huge role in how and if you experience accidental bowel leakage. Triggers for ABL are different for everyone. Spicy food, fatty food, and food or drinks with caffeine in them, and eating large meals can cause issues for many, not just sufferers of chronic ABL.
You can try to use a bowel diary to track your food intake and any associated bowel problems. This way you can see a tend between what you eat and instances of ABL.
4: There’s No Way to Treat ABL
Accidental Bowel Leakage can and should be treated. Methods can be as simple as watching what you eat, getting proper exercises and modifying your behaviour, to medications and surgical intervention. The important thing is to remember there are options for you. Your doctor or specialist might even discuss bowel retraining.
What is Bowel Retraining?
Controlling your bowels can be an issue for many. But there are different techniques to help you manage this condition. Bowel retraining is exactly what it sounds like – the process of training yourself to have more regular bowel movements. This can aid with ABL, faecal incontinence and even some nerve problems.
Preparing for Bowel Retraining
Before you start bowel retraining, it is recommended you keep a symptom diary. You will need to record:
- Times of voluntary bowel movements
- The times of involuntary bowel movements
- Any associated symptoms you’ve been having
- Foods you have eaten
- Drinks you have consumed
By reviewing this diary you can work out whether what you’re eating and drinking and if it is enough to have regular bowel movements. It can also help identify what time of the day is best for bowel retraining.
What Should I Expect from Bowel Retraining?
Your bowel retraining program will involve addressing all the factors that might be affecting bowel elimination. Your doctor will have a specific program for you, based on your symptoms, but retraining programs usually follow these steps:
1: You will choose a regular time, each day, to try and have a bowel movement. As a rule, it is best to choose a time between 20-40 minutes after eating
2: Spend 10-15 minutes on the toilet to see if you can have a bowel movement
3: Ensure you don’t strain as you try to go
4: If you don’t pass a stool, resume regular daily activities
It can take time to train your bowels, so don’t worry if you don’t have any bowel movements at first. You can also use an enema to stimulate your bowels. Other try using prune juice or a suppository to trigger a bowel movement. You should only need to use these methods for a short time while your body adjusts to the bowel training. It is ideal if you are able to have a bowel movement every day within a few weeks of starting your bowel retraining program. However, some may find they are only able to have a normal movement every three days.
While you are working to treat your ABL or faecal incontinence, you need protection for peace of mind. Holistic Incontinence has a wide range of incontinence products available to suit your needs. We also offer discreet shipping, straight to your door. Unsure of what you need? Ask the helpful team at Holistic Incontinence for advice!