- changes in diet or medications
- pelvic floor muscle exercises
- “bowel training” (training your body to move bowels on a schedule)
- other therapies
- a combination of the above
Both constipation and diarrhea can contribute to fecal incontinence. Your health care professional may ask you to:
- Eat more fiber and drink more clear liquids because they can reduce constipation.
- Fiber can come from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans and other legumes.
- Your healthcare provider may recommend fiber supplements. Adding fiber slowly can reduce the risk of diarrhea.
- Cut back on caffeine. Caffeine can contribute to diarrhea and fecal incontinence. Cola drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate contain caffeine.
- Cut back on sugar-free diet drinks, foods, and chewable medications that have artificial sweeteners, which can cause chronic diarrhea.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications or recommend some that are available over the counter. These can include:
- “Bulking agents” (such as methylcellulose) to make stools bulkier and less watery.
- Anti-diarrhea medication such as loperamide (Imodium).
Some prescription and over-the-counter medications may cause diarrhea or constipation so your healthcare professional will check what medications you are already taking, and might recommend changes.
Exercises and Biofeedback
Exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor muscles may improve your ability to control your bowels. Your healthcare provider can show you how to do these exercises.
Your provider may recommend:
- Pelvic floor rehabilitation therapy, where a specially-trained physical therapist will perform an evaluation and recommend an exercise plan.
- This plan may involve biofeedback. Biofeedback is a way to train your body by closely focusing on information it provides. This will help make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly. Biofeedback can help re-train pelvic floor and nearby muscles.
Bowel training can help if mental or physical problems are causing fecal incontinence. Training involves trying to have a bowel movement at scheduled times of each day—for example, after meals. This training can improve constipation by getting the body in the habit of having regular bowel movements.
When fecal incontinence is due to damage to the sphincters or to the pelvic floor, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery. These surgeries are not always successful.
- A sphincteroplasty, can repair damage to rectal sphincters due to childbirth or other injuries.
- Another type of surgery involves implanting an inflatable cuff, called an artificial sphincter, at the end of the rectum.
Last Updated December 2022