Many women find that diet changes help them to control bowel problems. For both accidental bowel leakage and constipation, the easiest and first diet change to make is FIBER. Fiber is very helpful for many bowel problems for different reasons. For hard stools, fiber pulls water into the stool, making the stool a soft, formed mass that is more easily held in the rectum than watery stool. For loose, liquid stool, fiber absorbs the excess liquid, resulting in a soft, formed stool.
Aim for 25-35 grams of soluble fiber per day in combination from food and supplements.
Dietary fiber (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, or high fiber cereals) or over-the-counter fiber supplements can help make stools more formed, resulting in more complete passage during bowel movements and improved evacuation of stools. It’s much harder to control liquid stool, so the goal is to make all stools a soft, formed mass – aim for the consistency of toothpaste.
Some women find that eating at regular times helps to regulate bowels. Also, small, frequent meals may help food move more easily through your gastrointestinal tract. In addition, women with ABL benefit from avoiding spicy foods or stimulants such as caffeine, which speed up transit time in the bowel.
In addition, you may find it helpful to reduce intake of artificial sweeteners (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol), which can induce diarrhea.
Increasing dietary fiber is the most common way of treating constipation. It’s much more difficult to pass hard rocks of stool, so the goal is to make all stools a soft, formed mass – aim for the consistency of toothpaste. Eating high-fiber foods (with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, or high-fiber cereals) and over-the-counter fiber supplements can sometimes help make stools more formed, softer, and more frequent. Avoiding starchy low-fiber foods such as white rice, pasta, or white bread can help also.
In addition, foods that contain indigestible carbohydrates and other compounds are natural laxatives. These foods may help relieve symptoms of constipation:
- Vegetables, e.g. cabbage
- Dried fruits such as figs and prunes
- Fruits with rough seeds like raspberries
- Whole grains including brown bread and oatmeal