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General characteristics

General characteristics

Incontinence describes a partial or complete inability to consciously control the movements of the bowel and is also known as bowel or faecal incontinence. The material leaked from the bowel may be liquid (minor incontinence) or solid (major incontinence).

Causes include pelvic organ prolapse, displacement of bowel and other structural defects (perhaps following childbirth with forceps, surgical procedures or other physical trauma), anal fistula, anal fissures, weakness of the anal sphincter, nerve loss or damage to the area, poor diet and foods containing artificial additives (eg. foods containing lots of unnatural fats or sweeteners) , IBS and other inflammatory bowel disease, haemorrhoids, old age (though not considered a 'normal' occurrence), chronic constipation (fluids leak around the sides of the blocked anus), some medications, immobility, laxative use, chemotherapy, stroke, spinal cord injuries, dementia, diabetes, MS and acute diarrhoea or infections causing it.

Determining the cause of the incontinence will dictate the overall treatment programme needed but in nearly all cases improving or changing the diet and eating routines can have a positive impact on the condition.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eat a diet based around fresh whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and good quality organic animal products if needed.

The aim of the diet is avoid both constipation and diarrhoea promoting foods. Keeping a food diary of foods that cause either problem can help you to understand which foods are best avoided when on long journeys or on outings.

Eat regular meals that are average sized, large meals can trigger the urge to defecate so be aware when out and about.

Avid most processed meats such as salamis, hams, bacon etc as they contain nitrates (used as a preservative) which can cause loose bowel movements.

You need plant fibre from vegetables, leaves and fruit. Fibre bulks up the stools, exercises the bowel muscles and cleans the bowel thoroughly when eaten regularly. 2 apples a day and a raw daily salad (leaves, beetroot, grated carrot etc) should be plenty. A good quality muesli at breakfast with plenty of oats will also provide lots of fibre.

Drink at least 6 glasses of water daily.

Avoid  caffeinated drinks as these stimulate the bowel.

Avoid fatty processed foods and those containing sweeteners (including sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, aspartame, fructose etc) and phenylalanine which all act as laxatives and make the stools looser.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Chamomile tea can promote better bowel movements and can safely be taken daily for a lifetime. It also encourages a balanced bowel bactrial population.
If diarrhoea is a problem try meadowsweet and raspberry leaf tea 3 times daily.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Pelvic floor or Kegel exercises may also improve bowel control as well as bladder control, especially when incontinence is due to a weakness in the anal muscles or sphincter. Regular practice will tighten and tone the whole pelvic area. Here is a website that gives instructions on how to do them.
Don't strain when going to the toilet as this can loosen the anal sphincter muscles.
Over use of laxatives may weaken the strength and tone of the anal sphincter.

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