February 2021

The Secret You Don’t Have to Keep: Treatment for Bowel Incontinence Is Here


There’s a condition many women just like you experience, but few talk about: bowel incontinence. If you feel an urge to have a bowel movement but are unable to hold it until you reach a bathroom, or you accidentally leak stool, you may have bowel incontinence.

There’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Millions of people in the U.S. live with bowel incontinence. It’s increasingly common with age and impacts more women than men. If you think you may have bowel incontinence, you don’t have to suffer in silence any longer. Bowel incontinence is often treatable, so talk with your healthcare provider today.   

What causes bowel incontinence?

Many different factors can cause bowel incontinence. Your provider will diagnose the condition and its causes based on your medical history, a physical exam, and the results of several different medical tests. Some of these causes include:

  • Diarrhea. It increases the likelihood you may not make it to a bathroom in time.

  • Constipation. In time, it can weaken the muscles that hold in stool.

  • Hemorrhoids. They can sometimes prevent the muscles around the anus from closing completely.

  • Pelvic floor disorders. Muscles and tissues can become injured or weak from pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, or being overweight.

How cs bowel incontinence treated?

The treatment your provider recommends for bowel incontinence depends on what’s causing the condition. For example, if it’s due to diarrhea, your provider may suggest avoiding greasy and spicy foods, as well as alcohol and caffeine. If constipation or hemorrhoids are the cause, you may need to consume high-fiber foods and drink more liquids.

Doing exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles—squeezing and relaxing them many times per day—may also improve symptoms. In certain instances when other treatments fail, surgery may be necessary to repair damaged muscles that are involved in holding and releasing stool.  

Bowel incontinence can take a serious toll on your quality of life, but it doesn’t have to. Talk with your healthcare provider to start treatment and regain control. 




Online Medical Reviewer: Kenneth Mukamal, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2020
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