Bowel Retraining

fiber rich diet for bowel retraining

Adding fiber and fluids to your diet is the first step in a bowel retraining treatment plan.

Bowel retraining is about having consistent or regular bowel movements.  Having regular bowel movements is crucial to obtaining fecal continence and restoring control over your bowels. 

How to Do Bowel Retraining

To retrain your bowel to empty on a regular and consistent basis, begin by increasing fiber and fluid intake in your daily diet. Then, set a daily time to empty your bowels that you can stick to (about 20 to 40 minutes following a meal). Every day at the set time, sit on a toilet or commode (or use a bedpan if you are unable to walk) and relax and empty the bowel by bearing down and contracting the stomach muscles. If you are unable to have a bowel movement in this way, you may want to speak to your health care professional about a technique called digital stimulation, or by performing an enema just before a desired bowel movement. By increasing your fiber and fluids, and sticking to your scheduled bowel movement time each day, you may find that your bowels begin emptying on their own again.

Bowel retraining is useful for anyone experiencing constipation, which can cause fecal (also called bowel incontinence) and/or urinary incontinence.

Like fiber therapy and bladder retraining, bowel retraining is a non-invasive treatment that may bring results without the need for more serious interventions.  However, not everyone can achieve a regular bowel schedule through this method. Those who do may also, still find, that they not have complete continence and may still need a pad for protection.

Medical Reviewer: Carrie Carls , RN, BSN, CWOCN, CHRN

Ms. Carls, BSN, RN, CWOCN, is the nursing director of advanced wound healing and hyperbaric medicine at Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois.  Her article, “Prevalence of Stress Urinary Incontinence in High School and College Age Female Athletes in the Midwest : Implications for Practice” appeared in the Urologic Nursing, February 2007, and she has made presentations at national conferences regarding incontinence issues.  She teaches content in the areas of wound, ostomy, and continence care to baccalaureate nursing students at MacMurray College , and facilitates the West Central Illinois UOAA ostomy support group.

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