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While some form of bowel retraining is most commonly needed for people with spinal cord injury (SCI), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and certain illnesses like Multiple Sclerosis or Spina Bifida, a bowel training program can benefit anyone who experiences bowel and/or stool irregularities.

If you experience chronic constipation, have become reliant on laxatives to pass stool, suffer from diarrhea/accidents, or your bowel movements are inconsistent and/or irregular, you may want to consider adopting a bowel training program to get back on track.

What is a Bowel Training Program?

A consistent bowel program retrains your body (and brain) to have regular bowel movements at more predictable intervals. It’s important to consult with your doctor before starting any bowel training program to be sure it’s safe for you, especially if you have SCI, TBI, a chronic illness, and/or take medications.

The elements of creating a bowel training program typically include the following:

  • Your overall health and medical history
  • A review of medications
  • Nutrition, sleep, and exercise habits
  • Home environment and life stressors
  • Frequency of bowel movements
  • Consistency and appearance of stool
  • Whether the rectum is fully emptied at the time of a bowel movement

Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider, as a medical professional will be able to recommend the type of bowel management most effective for each individual.

Steps for an Effective Bowel Training Program

These seven steps outline recommended items to consider in your bowel training process.

Learn About Your Bowel Movements

Before you can start training your bowel, it is important to learn more about how your body is currently functioning. A great way to do this is to keep a daily log with notes about when you pass stool, the consistency of stool, and whether or not you experience any pain or discomfort. Keeping a food log that tracks your nutritional habits can help you understand which foods may be helping – or hurting – your problem.

Maintain this daily log for at least two weeks to target patterns and get a better sense of how your daily habits are affecting your bowel movements.

The Fiber Factor

Bowel movements commonly occur about 20-30 mins after a meal. If this isn’t the case for you then diet is a likely culprit for your bowel irregularities.

Adding more fiber to your diet can help regulate things, but daily recommended fiber varies from person to person so check with your doctor about your optimum fiber intake.

Move Your Body

Don’t forget about exercise! Moving your body is one of the most effective ways to get your stools moving, too. If you are accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle, start slowly with some stretching, light yoga, or a relaxing stroll.

Build upon a fitness routine that is sustainable and manageable with your schedule. You don’t need to run a marathon – even 20 minutes a day of light exercise can make a big difference! Don’t forget to include exercise habits in your daily log.

Stay Hydrated

Don’t forget to include beverages in your daily log! While water and other non-diuretic fluids are great for promoting regular bowel movements, others have the opposite effect. Caffeine and sugary sodas/drinks should be avoided or eliminated for the healthiest possible bowel program.

Consistency is Key

To create a ‘controlled’ environment, first establish consistent routines for nutrition, sleep habits, hydration, and exercise. This allows you to alter one element of your daily routine at a time to determine which have more (or less) of an impact on the quality and consistency of bowel movements.

Think About Timing

A bowel training program should include regularly timed bathroom breaks. Start by adhering to the same bathroom breaks each day to provide a baseline that fits with your habits and lifestyle. If you don’t pass stool at your designated time(s), stick with it! By incorporating the lifestyle and diet changes discussed above, your bowel will eventually get with the program.

Don’t Force It

You should not have to strain when passing stool, and you should be engaging your abdominal muscles – not your rectum – when you have a bowel movement. Try leaning forward while seated on the toilet when having a bowel movement; this can help focus your attention on your lower abdomen, instead of your rectum, when passing stool.

Consider these items and consult your physician if you’re considering a bowel training process to help alleviate bowel and/or stool irregularities.

Disclaimer: The material contained is for reference purposes only. Alliance Labs, LLC and Summit Pharmaceuticals do not assume responsibility for patient care. Consult a physician prior to use. Copyright 2020 Summit Pharmaceuticals and Alliance Labs, LLC.

Sources:

  1. https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-to-use-bowel-retraining-for-constipation-1944789
  2. https://msktc.org/lib/docs/Factsheets/SCI_Bowel_Functioning.pdf
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/bowel-retraining#what-to-expect