What is Fecal Incontinence?

The inability to control bowel movements, or fecal incontinence, can be a mortifying problem for people both young and old. It is estimated that about 5.5 million Americans suffer from this condition, including children and adults. Fecal incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements causing stool (feces) to leak unexpectedly from the rectum according to Mayoclinic.org. There are many possible causes for fecal incontinence. However, they all have one thing in common: early treatment means you can resolve your problem more quickly.

Fecal Incontinence

Diagnosis of Fecal Incontinence

Because there are so many conditions can lead to fecal incontinence, diagnosis may involve multiple tests. Ultrasounds, x-rays, sigmoidoscopes, and physical examinations may all be employed in the diagnosis of the underlying conditions that cause fecal incontinence. The main causes of fecal incontinence may include:

  • Constipation: Stools that don’t pass easily through the rectum can weaken the muscles, allowing smaller stools to pass through too easily.
  • Diarrhea: Excessively loose stools can be difficult to hold in, sometimes leading to loss of bowel control.
  • Muscle Damage: Injury to the sphincter muscles can make it difficult to maintain bowel control.
  • Nerve Damage:Stroke, childbirth, certain diseases, and straining to pass stool can all damage the nerves that control the sphincters or allow you to sense your bowel movements.
  • Scar Tissue / Inflammation: Certain diseases, including irritable bowel disease, can lead to conditions which prevent the rectum from stretching to accommodate stool.
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Weakening of the pelvic floor often occurs as the result of childbirth, but not become apparent until the mid-forties or later.

Fecal Incontinence Treatment

Treating fecal incontinence is entirely dependent on the underlying causes of the condition. Dr. Tabib may recommend everything from simple diet and lifestyle changes to medication and, in some extreme cases, surgery.The sooner you make an appointment, the sooner your treatment can begin.

Dietary changes are often helpful, especially if you frequently suffer from constipation or diarrhea. Avoiding certain foods is usually the first step. Keeping a food journal can help you identify which foods might be exacerbating your condition. Common problem foods include:

  • Dairy
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Fatty/Greasy Foods
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Cured/Smoked Meats
  • Certain Fruits (Apples, Pears, Peaches)

Changing the way you eat can also be helpful. Many people benefit from eating smaller, more frequent meals. You don’t need to eat less, but breaking up your three large meals into several smaller meals can often alleviate diarrhea. Splitting up your food and water intake can also help. Instead of drinking liquid with your meals, have your beverage a half hour before or after.

Increase Fiber Intake

Increasing your fiber intake can also be helpful for making your bowel movements more solid. It is recommended that most people get 20 to 30 grams of fiber every day. This fiber should be soluble, since insoluble fiber can actually contribute to diarrhea. Finally, drinking an adequate amount of water is important for your overall digestive health. You need 64 ounces of water a day, which can come from any beverage that doesn’t contain alcohol. However, any liquids that give you diarrhea – like milk or caffeinated or carbonated beverages – should be avoided.

Some people need medication to better manage their fecal incontinence. There are several kinds of medications that may be used, depending on your condition. Bulk laxatives are sometimes recommended to help regulate your bowel movements. In other cases, antidiarrheal medications work better. Laxative abuse can have serious negative effects on your digestive tract. Medications should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor.

Bowel Training

Bowel training is another technique sometimes used to alleviate fecal incontinence. If you can train your muscles to evacuate your bowels at certain, specific times each day, you can avoid the embarrassment of fecal incontinence. It may take some persistence, but establishing a pattern is possible with practice. Some people may also benefit from the use of a biofeedback machine, which can relay computer images of your muscle use to help you train yourself.

If none of the above methods work, or if your fecal incontinence is the result of certain injuries, surgery may be recommended. This may be a last resort and should only be undertaken under careful consideration and on the recommendation of your doctor.

The best way to get over fecal incontinence is to seek treatment. Dr. Tabib is an expert in the myriad treatments for this condition, and he treats every patient with the utmost empathy and care. To schedule a consultation with him, contact us today.

Get your

Siamak Tabib, M.D., Inc.
8631 W 3rd St Suite 1015E,
Los Angeles, CA 90048

(310) 683-4911

    Voted Best Gastroenterologist in Los Angeles


    awards logos