Written by PEBBLES Clinical Program Manager, Deborah Gordon.
This year’s World Continence Week theme, ‘incontinence- it’s no laughing matter’ is one that will resonate with many of us. Bladder and bowel health problems, including leakage (incontinence), are more common when a child or adult has a disability, and can be tricky to navigate.
The good news is, the PEBBLES Team are here to help. With a bit of detective work, we can find out what is causing the problem and we can work with you to overcome or lessen the challenges.
Constipation is a very common bowel problem in both children and adults. Constipation means that the poo is hard, dry and often lumpy. It can hurt to do a poo when it is dry so children may “hold on” and refuse to go to the toilet. This makes the problem worse, as the poo dries out more the longer it says in the lower bowel (colon and rectum). This can result in the rectum becoming overstretched, resulting in a loss of the sensation of fullness and “the need to go” and poo can leak out.
Common causes of constipation include not drinking enough fluid, not being physically active and not eating enough fruit and vegetables.
For some, laxatives are essential to help soften the poo and assist in helping it to pass through the bowel. Laxatives are not habit forming and are an important part of improving bowel health when used under the direction of a health care professional.
My top tips for a healthy bowel are:
- Go to the toilet when you feel the sensation of needing to do a poo
- Eat two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables every day
- Be as physically active as possible
- When sitting on the toilet make sure the feet are supported – preferably on a stool, so that the knees are up higher than the hips. Lean slightly forwards so that the elbows rest on the thighs
Having a full bowel can also stop the bladder from working properly and aggravate problems like bladder leakage and bed wetting. Our PEBBLES Team will try to resolve bowel issues first because we know that this will help the bladder too.
To keep your bladder healthy there are some easy steps you can take. Drinking plenty of water, taking the time to empty your bladder properly without straining, and going when you need to go (not “just in case”) is a good place to start.
Whilst incontinence is not a laughing matter, achieving better bladder and bowel health is definitely something to smile about.
The PEBBLES continence management service is managed by Therapy Focus in partnership with Bladder and Bowel Health Australia. The PEBBLES Team can support children and adults with disabilities who experience a range of toileting, bladder, and bowel health issues. Visit our Incontinence and Toilet Training page for more information and to download an application for services.