What is Bowel Incontinence?Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is the inability to control your bowel movements, resulting in accidental leakage of stool (feces). According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, bowel incontinence is a fairly common problem, affecting about 1 in 3 patients who visit a primary health care provider.
Causes of Bowel Incontinence
Bowel incontinence can be caused by many different underlying conditions that affect bowel movement control. Let’s take a closer look at some of these conditions.
Aging: As you get older, your muscles and tissues lose their elasticity. Leakage can occur due to the limited ability of your muscles and tissues to stretch and bounce back in place.
Constipation: Large, hard stools can get stuck in the rectum, causing accidental bowel leakage as watery stools leak around the hard stools. In addition, constipation causes the muscles of the rectum to stretch. As a result, these muscles weaken and maynot hold stoollong enough for you to get to the restroom.
Diarrhea: The increased amount of loose, watery stools can initiate a sense of urgency to use the restroom.
Muscle or Nerve Damage: Damage to the anus can lead to leakage of stool. Also, weak pelvic floor muscles may not be able to completely hold stool in the rectum. Nerve damage can affect proper communication between the brain, muscles, and organs.When this happens, the brain is not aware that there is stool in the rectum that is ready to be passed.
Childbirth: A woman’s body goes through extreme stress during childbirth. Damage to the pelvic floor muscles, injuries to nerves, or the tearing of muscle during delivery can result in bowel incontinence and may not show up until many years later.
Removal of the Gallbladder: After the gallbladder is removed, the amount of bile increases in the intestines to act as a laxative, resulting in more loose stools.
Rectal Change: Scarring of the rectum due to radiation treatment for rectal or pelvic cancers can decrease the rectum’s ability to prevent stool from leaking.
Side Effects from Certain Medications: Some medications can cause diarrhea, increasing the risk of accidental bowel leakage.
How Can I Treat My Bowel Incontinence?
If you suffer from bowel incontinence, you may feel embarrassed to talk to someone about it. But don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. There are many treatments and incontinence products available on the market that can help improve your bowel incontinence and your quality of life.
Depending on the cause of your bowel incontinence, your doctor may recommend certain over-the-counter medications.
If your bowel incontinence is caused by constipation, your doctor may recommend fiber supplements such as psyllium (Metamucil) or stool softeners such as docusate (Colace). If your bowel incontinence is caused by diarrhea, your doctor may recommend anti-diarrheal medications such as loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol). Talk to your doctor about which over-the-counter medications may be best for you.
Changing your diet can help improve your bowel incontinence. If diarrhea is the cause of your bowel incontinence, avoid foods and drinks that tend to exacerbate or worsen your diarrhea. Your doctor may recommend that you keep a daily food diary to track what you eat, when you eat, how much of certain foods you eat, what symptoms you have, what types of bowel movements you have, which foods and drinks worsen your bowel incontinence, and which foods and drinks improve your bowel incontinence. This will help you and your doctor find trends that can determine how to properly manage your bowel incontinence with your diet.
Exercise and Other Therapies
Talk to your doctor about different exercises and therapies that may help you improve your bowel incontinence.
Kegel exercises can help restore muscle strength and improve anal sphincter control. Therapies such as biofeedback, bowel training, sacral nerve stimulation, posterior tibial nerve stimulation, vaginal balloon (Eclipse System), radiofrequency therapy (Secca procedure), and injectable bulking agents can also help manage bowel incontinence.
In some cases of bowel incontinence such as rectal prolapse or sphincter damage caused by childbirth, surgery may be required and recommended by your doctor to correct the problem.
What Products Can Help with Bowel Leakage?
If you suffer from bowel incontinence, you may not know that you are leaking until it’s too late. Therefore, it is important to have the best incontinence products on hand. There are many adult incontinence products available that are designed to absorb and prevent the heaviest of leaks.
Incontinence pads such as Abena Abri-San’s Special Pad for Fecal Incontinence are designed for heavy fecal absorbency, containing a barrier system with built-in pockets to help keep feces inside. These unisex pads feature soft and reliable flat lengthwise side barriers to prevent leaks around the leg areas. The TopDry system built in this product provides a dry surface and rapid absorption while preventing the escape of unpleasant odors. The breathable Air Plus backing decreases the risk of skin irritations. You can find these incontinence pads on parentgiving.com.
Adult Diapers with Tabs (Tab-Style Briefs)
Tab-style briefs such as Unique Wellness Original Briefs are designed for super absorbency. They can completely absorb up to 87 ounces (2.6 liters) of liquid while pulling it away from the skin to prevent skin irritations. These unisex incontinence briefs feature a NASA-inspired core (InconTek), making them some of the most high-tech adult diapers on the market. Because of this technology, they are the driest and most environmentally friendly adult diaper available. This adult diaper is the most absorbent diaper found on ParentGiving’s website. In addition, these popular tape-on adult diapers feature a built-in wetness indicator that turns color when a change is needed. They are cost-effective and easy to use for you or your caregivers.
Pull-ups like Attends Premier Pull-Up Underwear are designed for heavy fecal absorbency. These unisex pull-ups provide overnight protection while maintaining 100% breathability to keep you comfortable and your skin healthy. They offer full fit protection with a dry-lock containment core and a cloth-like backing. ParentGiving offers these pull-ups to help you feel comfortable and confident.
Disposable Bed Pads
You can find several disposable bed pads on parentgiving.com such as the Depend Underpad Bed Protector Overnight Absorbency. These disposable bed pads feature a slip-resistant backing to keep it in place all through the night while protecting your bed against overnight leaks. The underpad is made of three layers for soft and comfortable protection with cloth-like fabric that captures leaks and odors. Depend incontinence products do not contain any latex, lotion, or fragrance. These disposable bed pads will allow you to easily rest without worrying about overnight leaks.
Sage Comfort Shield Soft Pack Incontinence Care Wipes can be found on parentgiving.com. These adult incontinence wipes are made of long-lasting 3% dimethicone barrier cream, sealing out wetness to keep your skin clean and free from painful breakdown. These wipes come in a 3-pack resealable package so you can take them anywhere.
Incontinence Mattress Covers
There are a variety of incontinence mattress covers to choose from on parentgiving.com such as the Drive Medical Zippered Mattress Cover. This productis made of waterproof, non-allergenic vinyl that keeps your mattress clean and protected from incontinency odors and stains. ParentGiving offers cloth or plastic mattress covers on their website.The dimensions vary with each mattress cover, so make sure you order the correct size for your bed.
Odor Eliminating Sprays
Odor eliminating sprays are used to combat the unpleasant odors that come with bowel incontinence. There are many options to choose from on ParentGiving’s website. The HolisterM9 Odor Eliminator Spray is one of the best odor eliminating sprays on ParentGiving with excellent reviews. You can choose unscented or an apple scent with this pump spray to safely and effectively get rid of room odors.
How Can I Be Prepared?
Bowel incontinence can happen at any time, so it’s important to always be prepared. You can use the toilet before leaving your home and wear an incontinence pad or an adult diaper for extra security. With bowel incontinence, you may not always be able to make it to the restroom in time. Make sure you pack a bag with plenty of incontinence pads and adult diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes to take with you when you leave the house. Be mindful of your diet and consider changing it if necessary. Discuss exercises, therapies, and the use of over-the-counter medications with your doctor to determine what is best for you.
Bowel incontinence is not something to be ashamed of. It is simply a medical problem that can be managed and often treated. You are not alone as there are many other people who experience bowel incontinence as well. Again, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor.There are many steps that you can take to properly manage your bowel incontinence so that you can enjoy life and do all the things you love.
Abena Abri-San Special Pad for Fecal Incontinence. ParentGiving. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Attends Premier Pull Up Underwear. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Bowel Health. National Association for Continence. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Definition & Facts of Fecal Incontinence. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Last Reviewed July 2017. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Depend Underpad Bed Protector Overnight Absorbency. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Drive Medical Zippered Mattress Cover. ParentGiving. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Fecal incontinence. Mayo Clinic. Published December 1, 2020. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Holister M9 Odor Eliminator Spray. ParentGiving. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Sage Comfort Shield Soft Pack Incontinence Care Wipe. ParentGiving. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Treatment of Fecal Incontinence. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Last reviewed July 2017. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Unique Wellness Original Briefs (Tape-on) with NASA Technology. ParentGiving. Accessed May 11, 2021.
Thomas AndersonGeriatric Care Manager
Thomas Anderson has over 15 years of experience providing care and support to elderly individuals. He specializes in helping seniors manage their medical needs and navigate the healthcare system. Thomas keenly understands how to help aging adults stay as independent as possible while ensuring they have access to the best available resources.