Nerves that help your bowels work smoothly can be damaged after a brain or spinal cord injury. People with multiple sclerosis also have problems with their bowels. Symptoms may include:
A daily bowel care program can help you avoid embarrassment. Work with your health care provider.
Keeping active helps prevent constipation. Try to walk, if you can. If you are in a wheelchair, ask your health care provider about exercises.
Eat plenty of food that is high in fiber. Read labels on packages and bottles to see how much fiber the food contains.
Once you find a bowel routine that works, stick with it.
Use K-Y jelly, petroleum jelly, or mineral oil to help lubricate your rectal opening.
You may need to insert your finger into the rectum. Your provider can show you how to gently stimulate the area to help with bowel movements. You may also need to remove some of the stool.
You can use an enema, stool softener, or laxative until the stool is smaller and it is easier for you to have a bowel movement.
Following a regular bowel program may help prevent accidents. Learn to become aware of signs that you need to have a bowel movement, such as:
If you lose control of your bowels, ask yourself these questions:
Other tips include:
Know which foods stimulate your bowel or cause diarrhea. Common examples are milk, fruit juice, raw fruits, and beans or legumes.
Make sure you are not constipated. Some people with very bad constipation leak stools or leak fluid around the stool.
Call your health care provider if you notice:
Incontinence - care; Dysfunctional bowel - care; Neurogenic bowel - care
Rao, SSC. Fecal incontinence. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 17.
Updated by: Jennifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Frankford-Torresdale Hospital, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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