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Diet for Fecal Incontinence: Care Instructions

Overview

Fecal incontinence is the loss of regular control of your bowels. You may not be able to reach the toilet in time for a bowel movement. Or stool may leak from your anus.

This can be caused by constipation or diarrhea. Anxiety or other emotional stress can be a cause too. It can also result from nerve injury, muscle damage (especially from childbirth).

What you eat can help you manage fecal incontinence. Which foods you eat or avoid may depend on why you have fecal incontinence.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Keep a food diary of what you eat. This can help you find out which foods may help your symptoms or make them worse. A bowel and symptom journal can help you track your bowel movements and symptoms.
  • Eat small, frequent meals. Try 4 to 6 meals and snacks daily.
  • If you regularly experience constipation:
    • Eat a variety of higher-fibre foods at meals and snacks, like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
    • Drink plenty of fluids (9 to 12 cups every day for most adults). If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • Get some exercise every day. Build up slowly to at least 2½ hours of moderate to vigorous exercise a week.
    • Take a fibre supplement, such as Benefibre or Metamucil, every day. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Learn more about fibre and managing constipation.
  • If you regularly have diarrhea, certain foods or amounts of food or drink can make it worse. Try to limit or avoid:
    • Alcohol.
    • Caffeine. This is found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
    • Nicotine, from smoking or chewing tobacco.
    • Gas-producing foods. These include beans and legumes, and certain vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.
    • Dairy products can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea if you have lactose intolerance. You only need to avoid dairy if you are sensitive to lactose.
    • Foods and drinks high in sugar, including natural sugar. This includes fruit juice, soda, and candy.
    • Large amounts of foods high in fat. These include bacon, sausage, butter, oils, and deep-fried foods.
    • Large amounts of sorbitol and xylitol. These sugar alcohols are found in some sugarless candies and chewing gum.

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