Ask The Expert: Should I Get Vaccinations If I Have IBD?

 Should I Get Vaccinations If I Have IBD?

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: I suffer from IBD and have always thought that vaccines would place me at a greater risk for developing an infection due to an already compromised auto-immune system. Is this true?

Answer: Many patients with IBD believe that they should not get certain vaccinations because they are concerned about side effects, and think that the vaccines won’t benefit them. But the truth is, IBD already is placing patients at a greater risk for developing vaccine-preventable illnesses. This is even more true if you are on an immunosuppressive therapy. This is why it’s important to talk to your doctor about vaccinations to ensure that you’re getting the protection you need. 

Guidelines recommend vaccinating prior to starting immunosuppressive therapy, since the efficacy of the vaccine is higher in non-immunosuppressed IBD patients.

And while it is generally recommended that all adults with IBD receive non-live vaccines (in line with the national guidelines), certain live vaccines may not be recommended for some patients.

Talk to your doctor about the vaccines you need and determine a plan for getting up to date.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!

Home Remedies For IBS

 Home Remedies For IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also commonly known as IBS, can cause symptoms such as painful cramps, bloating, excessive gas, diarrhea, and even constipation. For some people, the impact of IBS on daily living can be extensive and can negatively affect quality of life. But there are things that you can do to treat IBS naturally. And since it’s a chronic condition, it’s a good idea to learn some methods for keeping it in check and managing the symptoms.

There is no cure for IBS, but knowing what your triggers are, and how to avoid them, can greatly reduce your symptoms. Read below for some ideas on how to manage your IBS symptoms without medication.

EXERCISE.

Working out can help keep your digestive system working properly. It’s also a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, two big contributors to IBS symptoms. Exercising can be as easy as taking a short walk around your neighborhood. The key here is consistency, so aim for a 30-minutes, 4-5 times per week.

DIET.

What you eat when you have IBS can make a huge difference. Many people find that certain foods will cause them more problems, so try to avoid these when you can:

  •          Dairy products
  •          Spicy Foods
  •          Citrus Fruits
  •          Sugar
  •          Caffeine (including chocolate)
  •          Alcohol
  •          Soda
  •          Fried Foods
  •          Beans
  •          Broccoli or cauliflower

WATCH HOW YOU EAT.

How you eat may be just as important as what you’re eating. Eating more slowly helps prevent you from swallowing too much air, which can cause excessive gas. And opting for smaller meals throughout your day can help you avoid overloading the digestive system, which can cause cramping and diarrhea.

MANAGING STRESS.

Stress can be a big contributor to IBS so learning effective ways to manage it can really help to alleviate symptoms. Exercise, as mentioned above can be a great stress reliever. You can also try practicing mindfulness, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress in many people. Talking with a friend or a counselor about stressful situations can also do wonders to help you calm your mind.

PROBIOTICS.

Probiotics are specific species and strains of bacteria that we eat which are thought to improve gut health. Its unknown exactly how these work, but by improving your “gut health”, you may also improve your IBS symptoms. Probiotics can be taken as supplements, and are also found in things like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and Kombucha.

GO EASY ON THE LAXATIVES.

Many people turn towards OTC laxatives to manage their IBS symptoms, but be careful – improper use of these products can sometimes make things worse. Always talk with your doctor about how to integrate them into your treatment plan before trying them on your own.

The most important thing you can do is to pay attention to your body and how you’re feeling. Notice how certain foods affect you and try your best to avoid them. Recognize when you’re feeling stressed out and find ways to calm your mind down. With a bit of practice, you’ll be on your way to fewer IBS symptoms, and a better ability to manage them.

Practicing Mindfulness To Ease IBS Symptoms

 Practicing Mindfulness To Ease IBS Symptoms

In today’s hectic and crazy world, it’s hard to even think about finding the time to just sit and practice mindfulness.  For many, it’s a hard concept to grasp, and as a practice, it can feel intimidating to start. But carving out even 5-10 minutes of each day for some quite time can do wonders for your stress and anxiety levels, and may even help with things like IBS symptoms, simply by calming your mind and being objectively aware of how you’re feeling.

BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years and is thought to have originated in Eastern cultures and religions.   Turns out that the ancient practitioners were on to something. Recent research has shown that mindfulness has many benefits, including the following: 

  • Reduced rumination
  • Reduced stress and decreased anxiety
  • Increased working memory capacity
  • Better ability to focus
  • Less emotional reactivity
  • Enhanced self-insight
  • Increased immune functioning
  • Improvements in well-being

WHAT TO EXPECT

Before you start practicing mindfulness, you need to know a bit about what to expect.  The main goal of mindfulness is to be able to pay attention to the present moment you’re in, without judgment. This sounds pretty easy, but once you get started you’ll see it’s much harder than it appears.

Your mind has a mind of it’s own and tends to drift toward all sorts of things except what’s happening to you right at this moment – that big work project coming up, the cupcakes you promised to make for your 3rd grader’s class this week, an upsetting conversation you had with a friend or family member, your growing to-do list, and on and on.

But not to fear – your wandering mind is completely normal and it just takes some practice pulling your thoughts back to the present moment once you realize they’ve drifted off. Once you’re able to this in practice, you’ll find you’re better able to do it in real life too, making you more present in your day-to-day activities.

HOW TO START

  1. Find a comfortable place to practice.  This doesn’t have to be a picturesque seat in the middle of a garden or waterfall. It can be a comfortable chair in your kitchen, a quite spot outside, or even your desk chair in your office. The main thing is to find a place that feels good to you. Be sure that your body posture is comfortable too, and that you’re in a position that you can remain in for the length of your practice.
  2. Start with 5-10 minutes. This feels like a small amount of time, but is a great place to start when you’re trying to fit this practice into your day. And when you’re just getting started, trust us when we say that even 5-10 minutes may feel like a long time to just sit still. As you continue with your practice, you can begin to extend your time.
  3. Concentrate on your breathing. No need to count your breaths or hold it for a specific amount of time. Just feel your breath as you inhale and exhale slowly and regularly.
  4. If you feel your mind start to wander (and you will), just acknowledge it and then pull your concentration back to your breath.
  5. Don’t judge yourself or your feelings.  This is hard work, and takes practice to be able to continually be present and not focus on the things that are happening in our lives.
  6. Practice makes perfect. Or at least it makes you better. With continued practice of mindfulness meditation, you’ll become much better at staying focused throughout and that will bleed into other areas of your life as well. We know it’s hard to sit still for a set time each day, but stay with it. The benefits are well worth it.

Need a little help getting started? Check out this guide to find some apps that can help you stay focused and guide you through your meditation practice.

What Is IBS?

 What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

We’ve all experienced bowel trouble at one time or another. But for some people, cramping, excess gas and loose stools (or not so loose stools) are all too common of an occurrence. If you suffer from these symptoms, you may have a condition called IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder and is not the same as IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease), which is a more serious condition and can cause more severe complications.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF IBS

  • Abdominal pain or cramping (this goes away once you have a bowel movement)
  • Excess gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea, or constipation (sometimes people with IBS experience both)
  • Changes in stool consistency or frequency
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Loss of appetite

CAUSES AND TRIGGERS OF IBS

It’s not completely clear what causes IBS, sometimes referred to as spastic colon, but many experts believe that people with IBS simply have a more sensitive colon.  Things such as changes in your gut bacteria could have a greater effect on you than on others. Some experts also believe that the condition is a result of problems with brain-gut interaction, or how your brain and gut communicate with each other.

And, just like other conditions, such as overactive bladder, IBS has it’s own triggers.

While everyone’s trigger might be different, there are some common ones:

FOODS IN YOUR DIET:

Depending on your symptoms, different foods may be causing you problems. If you suffer from constipation, some foods, such as breads and cereals, processed foods, high-protein diets, and dairy products (especially cheese) can contribute to you symptoms. If you’re making more trips to the bathroom because of diarrhea, things like too much fiber, large meals, fried and fatty foods, and dairy products can be a problem. And for either symptom, you should avoid caffeine, alcohol, or carbonated beverages.

HOW YOU EAT

It’s not just what you’re putting in your body that can have an effect on you, but how you eat can also impact your IBS symptoms. Eating too fast, or with distractions (like eating while you work or drive) can increase symptoms of IBS. Make sure to eat slowly and without disruptions.

STRESS AND ANXIETY

Stressful life events, or even certain mental conditions such as depression, can bring on symptoms of IBS.  Learning ways to stay calm and manage stress can be helpful tools in managing IBS symptoms.

HORMONAL CHANGES:           

Many women with IBS often experience an increase in symptoms around their menstrual cycle (in fact, 70% of people who live with IBS are women). While you can’t prevent your menstrual cycle from happening, it may help to find ways to better manage your symptoms. Birth control pills can sometimes lessen the effects of your periods, which may also help with IBS symptoms.

NOT ENOUGH EXERCISE:

Simply put, exercise can keep things moving if you’re suffering from bouts of constipation. And, as a widely known way of banishing stress, it’s helpful in keeping you calm and stress free, which can eliminate another trigger of IBS symptoms.

RISK FACTORS FOR IBS

IBS is a common disorder affecting up to 20% of US adults. IBS is not an old person’s condition either – it strikes young, often occurring in people before turning 35). The majority of sufferers are female (70%).  While not proven to be hereditary, people who have had family members with IBS may be at a greater risk for developing the condition themselves. 

DIAGNOSING IBS

Diagnosis for IBS is typically done at a doctor’s office through blood tests. If you suspect you have IBS, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms, and get tested for a diagnosis.

TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR IBS

COUNSELING

If you suffer from a lot of anxiety, or have experienced a traumatic event, speaking with a counselor can help you work through some of those feelings and may help ease your IBS symptoms in the process.

DIET CHANGES

Making some changes to what you eat can have a big effect for some people experiencing IBS symptoms. Try eliminating some of the problem foods listed above to see if you experience any relief.

BIOFEEDBACK

This technique involves training your body to have more control over your bowels, and has been proven an effective tool in managing IBS symptoms. Learn more about biofeedback here.

MINDFULNESS

Practicing mindfulness meditation has been shown to result in a reduction of IBS symptoms. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and has been thought to reduce stress and calm the mind. 

MEDICATIONS

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help you manage. Fiber supplements or anti-diarrheal medications can help manage constipation and diarrhea, and antidepressant medications may help you manage symptoms of stress and anxiety, which are common triggers of IBS. There are also medications specifically approved by the FDA to treat certain symptoms of IBS.

IBS can be a very painful and debilitating condition for some people, and while it is not life-threatening, it is a long term condition that should be treated. Speak with your doctor about your symptoms and work with him or her to find a treatment option that works for you.

Patient Perspective: Ellen's Story

 Patient Perspective - Ellen's Story of Living With Incontinence

After the birth of my 2nd child, I began experiencing urinary incontinence.  I started leaking a bit here and there, and it only got worse as I got older. I assumed it was just a part of aging and that there was nothing I could do. And while the episodes were embarrassing, I was able to control and hide them pretty well by wearing protection and always keeping a close eye on the toilet. 
 
However, when my youngest was 15 years old, I had my first real bowel accident, and life as I knew it officially changed.  I began having more and more episodes, and eventually didn’t even want to leave the house because I was so terrified of having an accident.  I stopped seeing friends. I ordered groceries and most things I needed online.  I refused to go on dates with my husband.  There is something that feels just a little bit worse about having a bowel accident vs. having a bladder accident – it’s messier, smellier, much more apparent, and just so humiliating that you never want others to know it is something you are going through.  
 
I lived like this for six years before finally realizing that I wasn’t controlling my ABL, it was controlling me.  I got up the nerve to speak with my doctor and was able to have a surgery that helped alleviate many of my issues. 
 
All of this could not have come soon enough – my first granddaughter was born a year ago and to think that I may have missed out on that moment or all the wonderful ones that have followed makes me cringe. My only regret is that I didn’t do something about it sooner.
 
Ellen T., Atlanta, GA

Patient Perspective: Marilyn's Story

 Marilyn's Story, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

My mom has always had urgency issues. Growing up it seemed that almost anything she ate would result in a bathroom trip within the next 30 minutes.  And not just causal bathroom trips either – urgent, NEED TO GO RIGHT NOW, bathroom trips.  These were a constant source of frustration for our family – no one understood that it was something she couldn’t help. 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve experienced some of the same symptoms myself. The urgent needs to empty my bowels, occasional abdominal pains, daily bloating. Thinking that it was just something I inherited, and something that couldn’t really be fixed, I lived with those symptoms for years before casually mentioning it to my doctor during a routine check up.

I was surprised when he mentioned irritable bowel syndrome and after hearing the symptoms, was certain that it was what I, and likely my mother, suffered from for all those years.

After some tests, I was proven correct and he started me on a medication that has mostly erased the discomfort I used to feel on a daily basis.

My Mom has been gone for several years, and I hate that we never pushed her to talk to her doctor about this problem. Thinking back on all the pain and frustration she went through (and likely embarrassment and shame) feels like such a waste considering all that can be done to treat IBS.

But, while it may be too late for her to get treatment, I’m glad that I finally did speak up to my doctor and am not following the same path. Life is just too short to live every day with something that can be treated so easily.
 
Marilyn R., Indianapolis, IN

Eating Your Way Through Constipation

Diet habits to avoid constipation

Being constipated is a very uncomfortable situation, leaving many people stressed and impatient. For some, constipation further aggravates bladder control issues and for others, the problem is merely uncomfortable. Regardless of how your bladder is affected, the impatience and stress caused by constipation only makes the whole situation worse.

Thankfully, constipation is usually a situation fixed by better eating habits and/or a change in medication. Talk to your doctor about your constipation and consider bringing in a bowel diary of how often you pass a bowel movement.

If medication is the sole catalyst, your doctor should be able to advise a healthy alternative. And if eating a more fibrous diet is in the cards for you, consider trying these ten constipation-fighting foods.

Foods To Prevent Constipation

  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Grapes
  • Broccoli
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Bran
  • Figs
  • Prunes

What foods or drinks do you use to combat constipation?

What I've Learned About IBS And How To Treat It.

IBS, Bowel Health, And How To Treat It
IBS, Bowel Health, And How To Treat It

I was fairly young when I first started having bowel trouble. A consistently nervous young woman, I was constantly in a state of worry – about school, boys, and friendships – pretty much the normal run of the mill high school concerns. My mother always said I had “nervous bowels”, and my family became accustomed to stopping frequently to use the restroom on trips, and always asking me if I had to go before leaving the house.  The pain I felt sometimes with bloating or cramping was attributed to my nerves.  And while my family was fairly sympathetic to my condition, I experienced a lot of eye-rolling growing up when my symptoms would strike (“We have to stop for Annette again?” my brother would say. “She just went!”) It was a normal occurrence that lasted into my college years, and then later as I started a family.  And while it was inconvenient and could definitely be painful at times – it wasn’t until after the birth of my first child that I thought about it as a “condition” that could actually be treated. 

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is when you have an overly sensitive colon or large intestine.  This may result in the contents of your bowel moving too quickly, resulting in diarrhea, or too slowly, resulting in constipation. (Both of which I have experienced, although my symptoms tend to lie more in the former camp, causing me to constantly race to the bathroom for fear of an accident).  Symptoms also can include cramping or abdominal pain, bloating, gas, or mucus in the stool. The condition is more common than you may think. As many as 1 in 5 American adults have IBS, the majority of them being women. And, this is not an old persons disease either – IBS strikes young, commonly in ages younger than 45.

I was finally diagnosed at age 28 – a whopping 13 years after I started experiencing symptoms, and I wish I had thought to seek help earlier.  My doctor told me that there are many things that can contribute to IBS. Things like hormones, certain types of food, and stress (I guess my mother was right) may all impact IBS symptoms.  Since the cause is of IBS is not known, treatments usually focus on relieving symptoms so that you can live as normally as possible. 

Below is a list of treatments my doctor discussed with me.

Behavioral Changes: 

Diet.  Many foods can trigger IBS. And, while they might not be the same for everyone, there are some common triggers that have been identified:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine (including coffee, chocolate)
  • Dairy products
  • Sugar-free sweeteners
  • High-gas foods, such as beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, raw fruits or carbonated beverages)
  • Fatty foods
  • FODMAPs (types of carbohydrates that are found in certain grans, vegetables fruits and dairy products)
  • Gluten

One of the first things I did when starting treatment was to keep a bowel diary, which tracked the foods I ate and how they effected me. This was a huge help in learning my food triggers.  I also learned to eat more frequent, smaller meals, which helped ease my symptoms. (Although those who experience more constipation may see improvement by eating larger amounts of high-fiber foods.)

Stress Management. This was a huge one for me.  It turns out, your brain controls your bowels, so if you’re a hand wringer like me, it may end up making you run to the bathroom more often than you’d like.  Learning ways to control stress was a game changer and I saw a huge improvement with these steps:

  • Meditation – Just taking the time to quite your mind can do wonders in helping you manage stress on a regular basis.
  • Physical Exercise – Regular exercise is a great de-stressor and, if you have constipation, can help keep things moving in that department too.  I walk regularly and practice yoga 3 times per week to keep my stress at bay.
  • Deep Breathing Exercises – This is a great trick to practice if you feel yourself starting to get worked up. Practice counting to 10, while breathing in and out slowly until you start feeling relaxed.
  • Counseling – Sometimes you need someone to talk to help you work through your emotions.  You may find comfort in talking with a friend or family member, or even a professional counselor, who can help you learn how to deal better with stress.
  • Massage – This one likely doesn’t need much explanation - who doesn’t love a good massage?

Drink Plenty Of Water. Drinking enough water just helps your body function better. And for people with IBS, it will ensure that everything moves more smoothly and minimize pain. This is especially true with those who suffer from constipation. 

Medications 

There are several different medications used to treat symptoms of IBS. Whether you suffer from constipation, or diarrhea, OTCs and prescriptions are available. Antibiotics are also sometimes prescribed for those patients whose symptoms are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. And if you suffer from anxiety or depression, like me, some antidepressants and anti-anxiety agents can actually improve your IBS symptoms too. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and work with him or her to find a solution that’s best for you.

Other treatment options 

Acupuncture. Despite a lack of data on acupuncture and IBS, many patients turn to this method of treatment for pain and bloating. Acupuncture, which is usually performed by a licensed acupuncturist, targets specific points in the body to help channel energy flow properly.

Probiotics.  As research continues to emerge around the importance of gut bacteria and your overall health, probiotics may become a more common treatment option.  Consuming them can increase the “good” bacteria that live in your intestines and may help ease your symptoms. 

Hypnosis.  Hypnotherapy has been shown to improve symptoms by helping the patient to relax. Patients practicing hypnotherapy have reported improved quality of life, reduced abdominal pain and constipation, and reduced bloating. However, most of the time hypnotherapy is dependent upon a therapist, and is usually not covered by insurance plans, making it a costly form of therapy.

I’m 37 now and have had my IBS pretty much under control for the last several years. Looking back, I can’t believe I lived with it as “normal” for so long. If you suffer from this condition, there is simply no reason to not get it treated. 

Need help finding a doctor?  Use the NAFC Specialist Locator.

About the Author:  Annette Jennings lives in Oklahoma with her husband, 2 children, 2 dogs, and 1 cat. She's happy to be speaking up about her condition and hopes it will inspire more people to do so. 

The Top 3 Reasons To Use A Bowel Diary When You Have Fecal Incontinence

 Top 3 Reasons To Use A Bowel Diary When You Have Fecal Incontinence

It sounds weird, doesn’t it?  Keeping a journal for your bowel or bladder?  Maybe, but a Bowel Diary is actually a very useful tool to use if you suffer from Fecal Incontinence or Accidental Bowel Leakage.  

Here Are 3 Reasons To Use A Bowel Diary For Fecal Incontinence

  1. A Bowel Diary Gives You A Good Snapshot Of What’s Happening With Your Body. Knowing how often you leak, when, and how much can give help you create voiding habits that work with your body, and better assess the types of products that you need to address your leakage.  Always have a problem at 10 in the morning?  Perhaps you need to plan to always use the restroom at that time.  Only experience mild leakage? A light absorbent pad may work just fine for your needs.  Keeping a diary will help you make these decisions.

  2. It Helps You To Identify Triggers That May Be Causing You To Have Fecal Incontinence. By keeping a record of your ABL, you can start to uncover trends that may be contributing to the issue.  For instance, that cup of coffee first thing in the morning may be irritating your bowels more than you thought before, hinting that it’s time to rethink your java habit.
  3. It Provides You With A Roadmap For A Discussion With Your Doctor. Recording your leaks and daily habits gives you a great reference for when you eventually have a discussion about ABL with your doctor. This can be an embarrassing conversation for many, so having a document that outlines everything you’ve been experiencing can really help the discussion along, and provide your doctor with information that can help him or her prepare a better treatment plan for you.

Download the NAFC Bowel Diary here!

The Growing Array Of Options For Managing Fecal Incontinence

 Treatment Options For Fecal Incontinence

It wasn’t long ago that those suffering with fecal incontinence had just a handful of options. They could try behavioral modifications (still largely used today), absorbent products to help manage the condition, bowel retraining, medications, or surgery. But in the last several years, companies have been coming out with more and more innovative products to manage ABL. 

We’ve rounded up some of the newest products and therapies to help you control ABL.

Fenix® Implant:

The Fenix® Implant, is a small, flexible band of connected metal beads with magnetic cores that is placed around the anal canal to treat accidental bowel leakage (ABL). The beads will separate temporarily to allow the controlled passage of stool. The magnetic force between the beads then brings the implant back to the closed position to prevent unexpected opening of the anal canal that may lead to ABL.

Renew® Insert:

The Renew® Insert is a new product designed to comfortably fit with your body to form a seal with the rectum, which blocks the anal passage and prevents leaks from occurring.  

Eclipse™:

Eclipse™, which is fitted first by a physician, is an inflatable balloon device that is inserted into the vagina. When inflated, the balloon puts pressure through the vaginal wall onto the rectal area, thereby reducing the number of FI episodes.

SECCA:

The SECCA procedure is an outpatient procedure that can be performed in your doctor’s office. It is best used when other more conservative therapies have failed. The non-surgical procedure works by delivering radiofrequency energy to the tissues of the anal canal, causing the tissues to shrink and tighten.  SECCA takes about 45 minutes to perform and patients are able to return home 1-2 hours after the procedure. Most patients begin to see an improvement in 4 to 6 weeks.

InterStim™ System: 

Sacral Neuromodulation, delivered through the InterStim™ System, works by targeting the communication problem between the brain and the sacral nerves, which control the muscles related to bowel function.  This Bowel Control Therapy targets the symptoms of bowel incontinence by modulating the sacral nerves with mild electrical pulses. Sacral Neuromodulation typically only takes about 20 minutes in a doctor’s office.

Talk with your doctor to see if one of these products may work for you.  If you need help finding a physician, check out the NAFC Specialist Locator.

Ask The Expert: What Should Be The First Line Of Defense In The Treatment For Fecal Incontinence

 first line of defense in the treatment Of Fecal Incontinence

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question:  What should be the first line of defense in the treatment for Fecal Incontinence?

Answer:  My advice would always be to first talk with your doctor.  This may be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but it’s one worth having, since your doctor is best equipped to diagnose and treat the condition.  However, if you’re just not ready to take that step yet, there are a few things you can do.

How To Treat Fecal Incontinence

1. Keep a bowel diary. 

It may seem strange to track your bowel movements, but by tracking the time of your movements, what you were doing at the time, and what you eat during the day, you may be able to uncover some clues as to what is causing you to have frequent movements or accidents. Download a free bowel diary here.

2. Change up your diet. 

Certain foods can be irritating to your bowel and by keeping a healthy diet you may be able to lessen some of your symptoms.  Try eating foods rich in fiber, which can help create bulkier stools and make them easier to control. Drink plenty of water to avoid constipation (which, contrary to what you might think, can also cause ABL since loose stools can push their way past hardened ones causing leakage.)

3. Develop a routine. 

Take a look at your bowel diary and see if you notice a pattern to your bowel movements or accidents.  Try developing a voiding schedule to circumvent these episodes.

4. Exercise. 

Getting in a good workout is always a good idea, but it can be especially helpful in keeping constipation under control. Exercising helps to move food through the large intestine more quickly, which can prevent it from becoming hard and dry (and harder to pass.)  And keeping the pelvic floor in shape with regular exercise and kegel contractions can help control and reduce fecal incontinence.

If you don’t experience any improvement in your condition after making the above adjustments, it may be time to bite the bullet and speak with a doctor. Rest assured you won’t be the first one to share this type of problem with them and they will be able to point you in the direction of something that will work best for you.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Contact us!

4 Common Myths Of Accidental Bowel Leakage

 4 Common Myths Of Accidental Bowel Leakage

Accidental Bowel Leakage (ABL) is something no one likes to talk about. Even more so than urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence carries a stigma that is hard to shake. And yet, tens of millions Americans struggle with it on a regular basis.

Today, we’re dispelling 4 common myths associated with accidental bowel leakage:

MYTH:  ABL only happens when you have watery or loose stools.

FACT:  While things like diarrhea can create a strong sense of urgency and may indeed lead to leakage, other factors may also be at play.  Being constipated can be a cause of ABL too - when large hard stools get stuck in the rectum, watery stools can leak out around them.  Regular bouts of constipation can also stretch and weaken the rectum, making it harder for you to hold stools long enough to make it to the restroom. To that end, any damage to the muscles or nerves around the anus can create an ABL issue.  Things like childbirth, diabetes, stroke, hemorrhoid surgery, multiple sclerosis, or spinal cord injury all have the potential to cause ABL.

MYTH:  ABL only happens to older people

FACT:  While age does play a factor with ABL, leaky stools can happen to anyone who has had muscle or nerve damage to the anus, and can occur in people as young as 40.  ABL is more common in our older population though, due to decreased muscle and tissue elasticity, which makes it harder to hold a stool.

MYTH: Diet doesn’t affect ABL

FACT:  Diet can play a huge role in how and if you experience ABL. Everyone’s triggers are different - spicy food, fried and fatty foods, and food and drink with caffeine can cause problems for many. Additionally, eating larger meals can sometimes have a negative effect.  Try using a bowel diary to keep track of your food intake and your bowel problems. This may help you to see a trend in your eating habits that are leading to ABL.

MYTH:  There is nothing I can do to treat ABL

FACT:  ABL can and should be treated.  Watching what you eat, getting proper exercise (including pelvic floor exercises!), making certain behavior modifications, taking medication to address the issue are just a few of the things that can be done to combat ABL.  Surgery to correct the problem may also be an option for you.  The most important thing to remember is that you have options, and you owe it to yourself to seek them out by talking with your doctor.

Learn more about Accidental Bowel Leakage and available treatment options in our Conditions section.

The Best Products For Treating Accidental Bowel Leakage

 The Best Products For Treating Accidental Bowel Leakage

If you suffer from fecal incontinence, you know that you will do anything to prevent leaks from happening.  Fortunately, there are many products on the market that can do just that.  We’ve rounded up some of the most popular products for accidental bowel leakage to share with you here.   

The Best Products For Accidental Bowel Leakage

Supplements.

Fiber supplements may be a good first step to try if you are experiencing loose stools, as they bulk up the consistency of your stool and make it less liquid.  Good sources of fiber are found in lots of foods such as split peas, many types of beans, and berries. Fiber supplements can also help, and can be found in many health food stores.  Look for products that contain psyllium or methylcellulose.

Anti-diarrhea Medication.

Products like Immodium or Pepto-Bismol can really help people who deal with the occasional loose stools.  However, it’s important to not use products like these for more than a couple of days

Anti-Constipation Medication.

While most cases of constipation can be fixed by incorporating a healthier diet and maintaining proper fluid intake (8 cups of water a day is the norm), sometimes you may need a little help to get things moving.  Most of the medications available, such as Amitiza® and Miralax® work by drawing extra water to the stool to make it softer and easier to pass. As with anti-diarrhea medication, these products usually should not be used for extended periods of time.

ABL Specific Absorbent Products.

Absorbents for urinary incontinence get a lot of attention, but did you know that there are specific products just for fecal incontinence? Butterfly body liners are designed for light leakage and are unique in that they fit discreetly in between the buttocks.  Other super absorbent products from common names like Tena, Poise and Reassure also work well for bowel leakage.

Skin protection.

If you suffer from any type of incontinence, it is important to take care of your skin.  Barrier creams and ointments to protect and treat the skin from rashes or infection can be found online and in local drugstores.

Collection Symptoms.

For those with heavier leakage, there are multiple options ranging from bags adhered directly to the skin to catheters and tubes attached to a collection bag.

Vaginal Inserts.

Eclipse™, which is fitted first by a physician, is an inflatable balloon device that is inserted into the vagina. When inflated, the balloon puts pressure through the vaginal wall onto the rectal area, thereby reducing the number of FI episodes.

Rectal Inserts.

The Renew® Insert is a new product designed to comfortably fit with your body to form a seal with the rectum, which blocks the anal passage and prevents leaks from occurring.  

Another device on the market, the Fenix® Implant, is a small, flexible band of connected metal beads with magnetic cores that is placed around the anal canal to treat accidental bowel leakage (ABL). The beads will separate temporarily to allow the controlled passage of stool. The magnetic force between the beads then brings the implant back to the closed position to prevent unexpected opening of the anal canal that may lead to ABL.

Have you tried any other products not listed above? Tell us about them in the comments!

How To Perform Bowel Retraining To Treat Accidental Bowel Leakage Or Constipation

 How To Perform Bowel Retraining To Treat Accidental Bowel Leakage Or Constipation

Those who struggle with bowel control issues know full well the impact it can have. From fecal incontinence (also known as accidental bowel leakage), to constipation, not being regular can be be a huge nuisance, and can cause embarrassment, shame and frustration.

One way to manage bowel control is with bowel retraining, which literally means to “teach” your bowel how to function properly again.  By stimulating the bowel at regular intervals, you can train it to empty regularly, and with a normal consistency.

Some tips before you begin:

  1. Keep a Bowel Diary.  Knowing how often and when you empty your bowel now will help you later on as you begin the retraining process.  Keep a bowel diary for at least 4 days to get a good idea of both your voiding schedule, and what you’re eating and drinking.  
  2. Manage Your Diet.  Speaking of eating and drinking, what you consume can have a huge effect on your bowels.  To maintain a good bowel consistency, be sure to consume high fiber foods, like vegetables, beans and whole grain foods.  If you suffer from loose stools, using a bulking agent, such as psyllium, which can be found at health food stores, can help.  And don’t forget to drink plenty of water, which is vital when trying to maintain a healthy bowel.
  3. Be Consistent. Select a time of day that works for you to perform this exercise and stick with it.  This will ensure that you are training your bowel not only to function properly, but at the same time each day as well.

How to perform bowel retraining:

  1. Insert a lubricated finger into the anus and make a circular motion until the sphincter relaxes. This may take a few minutes.
  2. After you have done the stimulation, sit in a normal posture for a bowel movement. If you are able to walk, sit on the toilet or bedside commode. If you are confined to the bed, use a bedpan. Get into as close to a sitting position as possible, or use a left side lying position if you are unable to sit.
  3. Try to get as much privacy as possible. Some people find that reading while sitting on the toilet helps them relax enough to have a bowel movement.
  4. If digital stimulation does not produce a bowel movement within 20 minutes, repeat the procedure.
  5. Try to contract the muscles of the abdomen and bear down while releasing the stool. Some people find it helpful to bend forward while bearing down. This increases the abdominal pressure and helps empty the bowel.
  6. Perform digital stimulation every day until you establish a pattern of regular bowel movements.
  7. You can also stimulate bowel movements by using a suppository (glycerin or bisacodyl) or a small enema. Some people drink warm prune juice or fruit nectar to stimulate bowel movements.

The most important thing to remember when practicing bowel retraining is to be consistent, and to not get frustrated if you don’t see results right away.  This process usually takes a few weeks to develop a normal routine.  If you find that you are still having problems after several weeks of bowel retraining, or if you have additional questions, be sure to consult your physician.

Over 10 Million Men Struggle With Bowel Leakage

 Bowel Leakage Is Common In Men, Too.

While women make up the majority of individuals struggling with bladder concerns, there are millions of men dealing with accidental bowel leakage (ABL). The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) defines bowel control problems as "the inability to hold a bowel movement until reaching a bathroom.”

Bowel leakage can include symptoms like: trouble holding a bowel movement, having solid or liquid stool leak when least expected or finding streaks of stool in underwear.

While age is a contributing factor, ABL has been reported to affect both men and women as early as 40. As a growing concern among the Baby Boomer generation, more studies and research are being conducted to see what can be done to better manage and reduce or treat ABL.

The causes of bowel leakage can vary. Some folks experience ABL as a result of diarrhea, constipation, or damage to muscles or nerves. No matter the reason, many individuals are encouraged to normalize stool consistency with increased fiber intake and strengthen the sphincter muscles with pelvic floor exercises.

With practice and patience in finding the right solution, ABL can be managed effectively so individuals can move on.

Read our bowel retraining guide to learn more about a transitional treatment options. how to regulate your system.

A Recipe To Treat Constipation

 A Recipe To Treat Constipation

For the past few days, my 83 year-old father has been a little backed up. While under my care, he has experienced this several times and at first, we credited the changes to his decreased mobility.  However, we’re discovering it’s likely the medications he’s started taking for his Parkinson’s.  Not only is his constipation uncomfortable for him, but it has also started to affect his control of his bladder.

Constipation is common among the elderly.  There are many potential causes for it – poor diet, depression or other medical condition, irregular toileting routines, medications.  It may also be a cause of bladder control problems.  When the rectum is full of stool, it may disturb the bladder and cause the sensation of urgency and frequency.

A common remedy for constipation is extra fiber in the diet.  I’ve found the recipe below helps my Dad become a bit more regular.  It can be stored in the fridge or freezer.  I’ve taken to making batches of it and freezing pre-measured servings in ice cube trays to thaw as needed.  Not only does this make prep a little easier, my Dad thinks the slightly frozen mixture is soothing and refreshing.  Begin with two tablespoons each evening, followed by one 6 to 8 ounce glass of water or juice.  After 7 to 10 days, increase this to 3 tablespoons.  At the end of the second to third week, increase it to 4 tablespoons. We usually see an improvement in Dad’s bowel habits in about two weeks. 

Special Recipe To Treat Constipation

  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup prune juice
  • Spices as desired (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)