Fecal incontinence refers to when a person is unable to control their bowel movements. It can be caused by medical conditions such as neurological disorders, dementia, infections, muscle weakness, and diarrhea. In addition, dietary changes and certain medications can also lead to fecal incontinence. Before your healthcare provider can recommend a bowel incontinence solution, the cause of your condition needs to be determined. While certain gastrointestinal diseases may require surgery to restore your normal bowel function, conservative treatment options may significantly reduce the frequency of your episodes.
Both constipation and diarrhea can lead to fecal incontinence. Dietary changes such as adjusting the amount of fiber you eat, increasing or decreasing your fluid intake, and adjusting the amount of food you eat may help reduce bowel incontinence episodes. Some people are unable to control their bowel movements after overeating rich, surgery, or high-fat foods and after drinking large amounts of alcohol.
Limiting coffee intake can also help prevent fecal incontinence in some people. Caffeinated coffee is not only a gastrointestinal stimulant, but it is also very acidic, which can trigger incontinence episodes in people who have sensitive stomachs or digestive disorders. Similarly, carbonated beverages such as soft drinks and sparkling water can also cause increased peristalsis, gas pains, diarrhea, and bowel incontinence, so avoiding fizzy drinks may help prevent incontinence episodes.
Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can help prevent bowel incontinence. Anti-diarrheal medications such as those containing loperamide and bismuth can help prevent diarrhea and subsequent fecal incontinence, especially for people who are incontinent as a result of a food-borne illness. Loperamide-based anti-diarrheal medications, however, can cause significant side effects such as drowsiness, fatigue, and decreased gastric motility.
Fiber supplements and bulking agents can also help you manage your bowel incontinence; however, before taking medications, check with your healthcare provider. If medications are ineffective in treating your fecal incontinence, your primary care doctor may recommend testing your stool for the presence of a parasitic infection that may be contributing to your symptoms.
If you suffer from bowel incontinence, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. They will perform a comprehensive examination that may include listening to your bowel sounds with a stethoscope and palpating your abdomen. If warranted, your physician may refer you to a gastroenterologist, who is a physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive and gastrointestinal disorders, for further testing and treatment.
Contact your doctor for more information about fecal incontinence.