Fecal incontinence is the inability to control
your bowel movements, causing stool (feces) to leak
unexpectedly from your rectum. Also called bowel
incontinence, fecal incontinence can range from an
occasional leakage of stool while passing
gas to a
complete loss of bowel control.
If fecal incontinence is due to a problem that can't be
completely corrected, you can still help limit the number of accidents
you have by taking better control of your bowel movements. You can start
by making changes in your diet:
Watch what you eat.
Keep a list of what you eat daily for a week. After a few days, you
may discover a connection between certain foods and incontinence.
After you identify foods that seem to cause problems, cut back on
them and see whether your incontinence improves. Foods that can
cause diarrhea and worsen fecal incontinence include spicy foods,
fatty and greasy foods, cured or smoked meat, and dairy products (if
you're lactose intolerant). Caffeine-containing beverages and
alcohol also can act as laxatives, as can products such as
sugar-free gum and diet soda which contain artificial sweeteners.
Eat smaller meals.
In some people, large meals can cause bowel contractions that
promote diarrhea. Try to eat several small meals throughout the day,
rather than three large ones.
Eat more fiber.
Fiber makes stool soft, formed and easier to control. Fiber is
present in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
You'll want to aim for 20 grams of fiber a day, but add it to your
diet slowly. Too much fiber all at once can cause bloating, gas or
Drink more water.
To keep stools soft and formed, drink at least eight glasses of
liquid, preferably water, a day.
In addition to managing fecal incontinence through
changes to your diet, you can help avoid further discomfort by keeping
the skin around your anus as clean and dry as possible.
To relieve anal
discomfort and eliminate any possible odor associated with fecal
Wash with water.
Gently wash the area with water after each bowel movement — either
by using wet toilet paper, showering or, better yet, soaking in a
bath. Soap can dry skin, making irritation worse, as can rubbing
with dry toilet paper, so avoid both. Pre-moistened, alcohol-free
towelettes also are a good choice for cleaning the area.
Allow the area to air-dry after washing. If you don't have time,
gently pat the area dry with clean toilet paper or a clean
Apply a cream or powder.
Use a moisture-barrier cream to keep irritated skin from direct
contact with stool. Ask your doctor to recommend a product. Be sure
the area is clean before applying the cream. You can also try
nonmedicated talcum powder or cornstarch to relieve anal discomfort.
Wear cotton underwear and loose clothing.
Tight clothing can restrict airflow and worsen anal problems. Change
soiled underwear as soon as possible.
When medical treatments can't completely eliminate
incontinence, products such as absorbent pads and disposable underwear
can help you better manage the problem. You can purchase incontinence
products at drugstores, supermarkets and medical supply stores. If you
use pads or adult diapers, be sure they have an absorbent wicking layer
on top. Products with this layer protect your skin by pulling stool and
moisture away from skin and into the pad.
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provided for general medical education purposes only and
is not meant to substitute for the independent medical
judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and
treatment options of a specific patient's medical
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