It’s Time to Talk about Accidental Bowel Leakage
Education & Research Accidental bowel leakage, the accidental loss of liquid or solid stool from the rectum, affects 20 percent of US adults – an incredible 1 in 5 people.
Tens of millions of women and men struggle with accidental bowel leakage, although you may have never heard of the condition.
Talking about our bowels can be embarrassing, so many of us avoid it. The term “accidental bowel leakage” is fairly new, replacing a medical term that many people with ABL do not recognize or identify with. Further, several good solutions for ABL have emerged recently, prompting us to talk more about it. ABL is associated with many health conditions that are becoming more common, making ABL more common as well.
"Strengthening the pelvic floor through Kegel squeezes can improve symptoms. Dietary adjustments to avoid ABL triggers — caffeine, spicy foods, milk products, chocolate, olestra, artificial sweeteners — and increase fiber will improve stool consistency."
ABL is more common in people with digestive disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea (especially after gallbladder removal), Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. ABL is also associated with diabetes, obesity, aging, stroke, and cancer treated with radiation or surgery in the pelvis (such as prostate, cervical, uterine, and colorectal cancer).
Regardless of the cause of ABL, good solutions exist. Strengthening the pelvic floor through Kegel squeezes can improve symptoms. Dietary adjustments to avoid ABL triggers (caffeine, spicy foods, milk products, chocolate, olestra, artificial sweeteners) and increase fiber will improve stool consistency. Skin irritation can be avoided through the use of Butterfly Body Liners, alcohol-free moist wipes, and barrier creams like zinc oxide. If these options are not enough, a primary care provider can provide referrals to specialists.
Know your options
Specialized physical therapists can perform biofeedback to improve anorectal sensation and muscle strength. Physicians who specialize in treatment of ABL may offer an office-based procedure to bulk the anal canal (Solesta) or an outpatient surgery to place a pacemaker for the pelvic floor (sacral neuromodulation, or Interstim).