How can I use dietary changes to treat fecal incontinence?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
The good news is that your diet can have a major impact on your bowel function and fecal incontinence (unintended passage of stool) by changing the consistency of the stool and the predictability of your bowel movements. That means there are potentially beneficial changes that you can make, such as increasing the fiber content of your diet or eliminating foods that irritate your system. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may suggest diet changes to improve bowel control or make your condition easier to manage.

Virtually everyone can derive some benefit from dietary advice. For example, people with sphincter problems can gain better control by taking steps to eliminate diarrhea. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be helped by identifying and eliminating specific irritating foods.
Kevin W. Windom, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Fecal incontinence is most commonly seen as the loss of liquid stool or gas. Fiber supplements can help to make stool firm and decrease fecal incontinence. The use of immodium can also help patients with their daily symptoms.

Dietary changes, which include eating more fiber or less fiber and avoiding caffeine, may help. Keeping a food diary can help pin down what foods trigger an episode of incontinence. Other foods that can cause diarrhea and incontinence are, in addition to caffeine: alcohol, dairy products, cured or smoked meat, spicy foods, fruit, fatty foods, and dietary sweeteners such as sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, and fructose. Other changes such as eating smaller meals more frequently, or drinking before or after meals but not while eating may also be suggested.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.