What products can I use to manage leakage due to fecal incontinence?

A number of over-the-counter (OTC) products are available to treat accidental bowel leakage (ABL), also known as fecal incontinence.
  • Fiber supplements: You can get fiber from many foods and supplements. You'll find many supplement options at the drug store and can select one that works best for you.
  • Antidiarrheal medicines: If you have loose stools and urgency to have a bowel movement that leads to ABL, over-the-counter antidiarrhea medicines like Immodium can be helpful. It is important to start with small doses of this medicine to avoid getting constipated. Remember that changes in stool consistency should be discussed with your doctor.
  • Anti-constipation medicines: Sometimes ABL happens because of having too much stool in the rectum, so using products to help evacuate your bowels can improve symptoms. There are different types of laxatives, and the safest ones are usually osmotic laxatives, which act by pulling water into your stool. It is important, however, to talk to your doctor about laxative choices.
  • Absorbent protection products: For light to moderate ABL, Butterfly Body Liners are a discreet absorbent protection product that adheres comfortably in between the buttocks. Butterfly provides a hygienic way to manage ABL that relieves the worry about staining. Sometimes people give up activities when they have even light to moderate ABL. Using an absorbent pad like Butterfly can help you feel more secure remaining active.
  • Skin protection: The tissue around the rectum is very gentle and sensitive, and it can get irritated when ABL flares up. Moist, non-alcohol containing wipes can be used to dab the area clean, rather than wiping with a wood-based toilet paper. If feasible, cleaning the area with water is also soothing for the skin. Zinc oxide or Desitin can be applied in a thin film to keep the skin protected from constant moisture. 
Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero, MD
Colorectal Surgery
Incorporating more fiber from fruits and vegetables into your diet may help manage leakage that’s caused by fecal incontinence. An over-the-counter fiber supplement may also be used.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Absorbent products, such as pads and disposable undergarments, are designed primarily for urinary incontinence, and people with fecal incontinence often find them unsatisfactory. Of the range of choices available, those that provide "heavy" protection are most likely to be helpful for fecal incontinence. According to the limited studies available, disposable products with super-absorbent materials may provide the best protection and be easiest on your skin.

There are also fecal collection devices (such as Bard FCD and Hollister), which are pouches that adhere to the skin around the anus to collect uncontrolled stool leakage. These devices control stool odor and can drain off liquid into a separate bag. To order such products, contact a medical supply house or catalog.

Anal plugs contain fecal incontinence by blocking the passage of stool. Limited research on these devices suggests that they are not always easy to live with. However, they can be an effective primary or occasional management technique for some people. Devices made of polyurethane (such as Peristeen, available in Canada) seem to perform better than those made of polyvinyl alcohol. Anal plugs are primarily used by people with diminished anal sensation and those with significant neurological impairment from injury or illness.

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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.