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What Causes Bowel Incontinence and How to Avoid It

Lady Holding Her tummy
Bowel incontinence is the inability to control passing gas or feces. The condition does not resolve itself and usually worsens without treatment, but it can be treated with non-surgical intervention. The condition is also often associated with age, and in some cases, having hemorrhoids, difficult stools, or a previous rectal surgery can increase your chances of having bowel incontinence in the future.

If you worry about becoming unable to control your bowel movements, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about your concerns. The following are common causes of bowel incontinence that you should talk to your doctor about. You will also learn how to avoid the condition or manage your minor symptoms.

Causes of Bowel Incontinence

Bowel incontinence comes in two main types: passive and urgent. Passive bowel incontinence is the inability to recognize the urge to go to the bathroom, which can cause a fecal accident. Urgent bowel incontinence is the inability to hold the urge to defecate, or the urge to go comes so suddenly that accidents occur. Both types of bowel incontinence can be linked to the following causes besides the ones listed above.


Some women experience bowel incontinence after giving birth. Nerve or muscle damage from delivery is a common cause of bowel incontinence.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A preexisting bowel disease can cause scarring inside the rectum, making the body unable to hold stool.

Rectal Prolapse

A rectal prolapse can cause weakened muscles in the rectum, making controlling bowel movements more difficult.

Nerve-Related Diseases

Some nerve-related diseases, such as diabetes, Lupus, or MS, can be linked to bowel incontinence.

How to Avoid or Treat Bowel Incontinence

Bowel incontinence can happen to anyone, but older individuals and women are most prone to this disease. The best way to manage or avoid the condition is to stay active, watch your bowel movements, and maintain a healthy, fibrous diet. Here are ways you can improve your bowel health.

Do Kegel Exercises

If you are female, you should do kegel exercises to keep bowel incontinence at bay. Since a weakened pelvic floor is linked to bowel incontinence, kegels can help strengthen your pelvic floor and keep your bowels in healthy condition.

Manage Constipation

Chronic constipation leads to straining of the bowel muscles, which can lead to bowel incontinence over time. If you have several constipated bowel movements a week, talk to your doctor.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water helps improve the digestive system's flow and can help make stools softer for easier bowel movements. Also limit your intake of sugary or caffeinated drinks, which not only dehydrate you, but can irritate your bowels as well.

Watch Your Diet

Avoid over-consumption of dairy products and consume more leafy vegetables and fresh fruits. Prunes in particular are fibrous and can help you manage your bowel movements more successfully. Fibrous grains will also aide in healthier digestion and more successful bowel movements.

Don't Hold the Urge

If you feel the urge to use the restroom, go. Holding your bowel movements in can lead to constipation, stretching of the rectal muscles, and colon distress. Pay attention to your regular bowel movement schedule so you can be in an appropriate setting to use the restroom when the urge to defecate hits.

Bowel incontinence is a common concern among many people and is not a condition you should treat on your own. Cysts, hemorrhoids, polyps, and other medical conditions that are intimate in nature should be addressed with your doctor. If you experience painful or bleeding bowel movements, see your doctor right away.

A colon specialist will show you several treatment options for bowel incontinence and prevention. See our specialists at Colon & Rectal Surgery Associates, P.A. for a private consultation today.


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