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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Insert a lubricated finger into the anus and make a circular motion until the sphincter relaxes. This may take a few minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
- If digital stimulation does not produce a bowel movement within 20 minutes, repeat the procedure.
- 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.
- Perform digital stimulation every day until you establish a pattern of regular bowel movements.
- 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.