Diet and Bowel Incontinence

If you or someone you love or care for has a problem with bowel incontinence, there is hope your problem can be significantly reduced or totally corrected. Bowel incontinence is often caused by chronic diarrhea or constipation, but can also be caused by medications, loss of memory of bowel training or surgery.

A series of events may be at the bottom of your fecal incontinence. The first step is to see your doctor. There may be a simple reason for the problem that can be corrected almost immediately. Sometimes, inactivity or high blood pressure can also cause you to lose control of your bowels.

Consistency is Key

The foods you eat and the fluids you drink will affect the consistency of your bowel movements and how quickly they flow through your system. If your stools are hard to control because they are too liquid, you may need to increase the fiber you eat.

Eating more fiber in your diet will firm up your stools and make them easier to control. Drinks containing caffeine, coffee, tea, and chocolate also cause problems with fecal incontinence.

Keeping a Food Diary

To decide if changing your diet can help your incontinence problem, begin keeping track of everything you eat and drink. Write down how much you consume and what time of the day you are eating or drinking it.

You may begin to see a pattern developing in your food diary after only a few days. If you can see the foods that seem to be causing the problems, cut back on them and see if your incontinence problem gets better.

If your problem is chronic diarrhea, foods that contribute to this problem and should be avoided are:

    • Spicy foods
    • Dairy products, milk, cheese, and ice-cream
    • Artificial sweeteners found in diet drinks and sugarless candy and gum
    • Chocolate
    • Fruits such as apples, pears, and peaches
    • Greasy and fatty foods
    • Alcohol
    • Smoked or cured meat like sausage, turkey, or ham

If you diary shows you are eating these foods, try cutting back on them to see if the problem is reduced. You also may consider eating smaller more frequent meals. Some people have bowel contractions after eating large meals. This causes diarrhea. You can eat the same amount each day; just divide the meals into smaller helpings.

Eating and drinking at different times may also ease the symptoms of bowel incontinence. One suggestion is to slow the food down going through your digestive system by drinking fluid one half hour before you eat instead of with your meal. Or, you could try drinking fluids one half hour after finishing your meal.

Eating the right amount of fiber is important to keep your stools soft and easier to control. It is suggested you consume between 20 to 30 grams of fiber each day. If you are not used to having this much fiber in your diet, it is best to add it to your diet slowly. This will give your body time to adjust. Too much fiber can cause diarrhea.