Incontinence, unfortunately, still remains an uncomfortable subject. And above all, the most uncomfortable topic of all is accidental bowel leakage or ABL. ABL carries a stigma that is harder to shake than urinary incontinence. As a result it is incredibly important dispel as many of these myths as possible. So today we are addressing the 4 biggest myths regarding accidental bowel leakage.
1 – Accidental Bowel Leakage Only Occurs When You Have Loose or Watery Stools
While it is true that diarrhea can cause a strong sense of urgency and can lead to leakage, there ware other factors that come into play. Constipation can also cause ABL. This occurs when a large stool becomes stuck and watery stools leak around it. If you suffer from regular constipation this can stretch and weaken the rectum, making it difficult for the body to hold stools long enough to make it to a bathroom. Further, any damage that has occurred to the muscles or nerves around the anus can cause ABL issues. This includes childbirth, diabetes, haemorrhoid surgery, MS, stroke, or even spinal cord issues. It is important to discuss any signs of ABL with your doctor, especially if you have had any of these procedures or conditions.
2 – Older People Are the Only Ones Who Suffer from Accidental Bowel Leakage
Yes, age can play a factor in ABL. However, leaking stools can happen to anyone, at any age, who has experienced muscle or nerve damage to the anus. ABL is more commonly seen in the older population, though, due to a natural increase in muscle and tissue elasticity. As a result, the body makes it harder to hold on to a stool.
3 – Accidental Bowel Leakage Isn’t Affected by Diet
In fact, diet can play a huge role in how – and if – you will experience ABL. Each person’s triggers are different. They can include (but are not limited to):
- Spicy food
- Fired or fatty food
- Caffeine heavy foods
Further, eating larger meals can sometimes have a negative effect on your body and your likelihood of ABL. The best way to track your triggers is to keep a bowel diary. This allows you to keep track of your food intake and your bowel problems. It will also help you see a trend in your eating habits that may lead to ABL.
4 – There’s Nothing I Can Do for Accidental Bowel Leakage
Actually, ABL can and should be treated. Your first step is discussing the issue with your doctor to set a plan in motion. This could include watching what you eat, getting proper exercise – including pelvic floor exercises – taking appropriate medications, and making certain behaviour modifications.
Further, surgery can help correct the issue, which is something that can be discussed with your doctor. However the most important thing is to remember you do have options. You owe it to yourself and your happiness to discuss these options with your doctor.
What is Accidental Bowel Leakage?
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) defines it as “the inability to hold a bowel movement until reaching a bathroom”. It is often associated with:
- Having solid or liquid stool leak when least expected
- Finding stool streaks in underwear
- Having difficulty holding a bowel movement
- Urgently seeking out the restroom in public
- Avoiding specific types of food
ABL is characterised by light to moderate leakage and is seen as a growing concern worldwide, particularly for the Baby Boomer generation. As a result, more and more research is being conducted to see what can be done to manage, reduce and treat ABL.
Causes of Accidental Bowel Leakage
There are a number of causes for ABL across ages. These include:
- Haemorrhoid surgery
- A history of straining to pass stools
- MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
- Spinal cord injury
- Rectal changes – from rectal cancer or other pelvic cancers, and inflammatory bowel disease causing scarring of the rectum
- Gallbladder removal
- Medication side effects
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
- Rectal prolapse
- Rectocele – herniation of the rectum into the vaginal wall
- Parkinson’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Reduced physical mobility
There are treatments to help with ABL that can be discussed with your doctor. And there are products on the market to help with ABL issues. Explore Holistic Incontinence’s options today!