Fiber Therapy for Bowel Incontinence

granola fiber therapy

Fiber therapy includes adding whole grains and fresh fruits to your diet.

Fiber absorbs liquids in the digestive system, thereby bulking up fecal matter. It is recommended that women under 50 consume 25 grams of fiber per day. A woman over 50 years of age should consume 21 grams per day. Men younger under 50 are recommended to get 38 grams per day. Men over 50 should get 30 grams per day in his diet. The average American, however, only has about 15 grams of fiber per day in his or her diet. And what is fiber therapy?  Fiber therapy is simply increasing your fiber intake gradually until you reach the recommended daily intake for your age.

Because fiber has such a great impact on your digestion of food, it is important that you increase your daily fiber gradually. Remember that fiber absorbs liquids in your body, so also increase your water intake as you increase your fiber. Increasing water intake along with fiber also helps to prevent possible side effects of gas and bloating.

How to get more fiber in your diet:

  • Eat whole grains (look for whole grain pastas, cereals, breads at the store and cut out the “white” pastas, breads and cereals)
  • Eat more beans, occasionally substituting them for meat
  • Eat fresh, raw fruits and vegetables
  • Use fiber supplements

Fiber therapy is a non-invasive treatment that can be attempted by nearly anyone experiencing bowel incontinence (also called fecal incontinence and accidental bowel leakage).  Fiber can help alleviate bowel incontinence by absorbing water and bulking up the fecal matter. Fiber therapy can also relieve constipation, which can also cause bowel incontinence (by causing liquid stool to leak out around a blockage).

As long as you increase your fiber intake gradually, getting the recommended daily dose usually doesn’t hurt anything (unless you have allergies that make you sensitive to fiber-containing foods), so it’s generally worth trying.  Another benefit to adding fiber to your diet is that is associated with lowering certain health risks, such as heart disease.

Adding fiber to your diet can cause bloating, diarrhea and flatulence (gas), especially when increased too quickly in the diet or when you get too much in one day.  So go slowly and watch for your body’s ability to handle the added fiber.

While fiber therapy may help to alleviate incontinence, it usually doesn’t cure it completely, so other treatment or management may be necessary under the guidance of your healthcare provider.

And if you suspect food allergies, be sure to discuss this with your healthcare professional.

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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