Bowel incontinence products help people manage uncontrollable bowel movements, a condition that is more common than you think. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, nearly 5.5 million people reportedly have bowel (or fecal) incontinence. Most of them are older adults, but younger people can also develop some degree of bowel leakage.
Even though it’s an uncomfortable topic, bowel incontinence (BI) is an actual medical condition often affecting people with IBS, IBD, Crohn’s, Colitis, or rectal prolapse. But what types of products should you use, and what tips can help you manage personal care?
Before we talk about products, we need to look a little closer at bowel movements (BMs). The reality of the situation is, no two BMs are alike. From person to person, and even for just one individual, the color, size, amount, and most importantly, consistency can vary greatly from BM to BM. In fact, the most commonly recognized system for distinguishing feces types, the Bristol Stool Chart, identifies 7 main varieties of stool.
So why does that matter? Well, it is very difficult to make a product that can adequately address all possible stool types. Truthfully, among the hundreds of incontinence products available for purchase in the U.S., there are very few products developed specifically to handle bowel incontinence. The inconsistency of BMs is one big reason for this.
The other reason that most manufacturers design products with only urinary incontinence in mind is because the technology to absorb solid matter simply does not yet exist. No matter how fast or how much a product can absorb, the laws of physics still apply, and solid fecal matter will remain unabsorbed and lay against the skin. Because of that, the most important thing to do with any product is change it as soon as possible after a BM.
Bowel Incontinence Products
So, what are your options?
Even though finding products specifically designed for bowel incontinence can be a challenge, if you or your loved one are dealing with BI, you surely know that simply ignoring it is not an option. So, what are your options? Luckily, high quality products, even those developed for urinary incontinence, can go a long way for BMs as well.
The first step is to look for products that are highly absorbent. In the case of looser BMs, highly absorbent products can draw in some of the liquid and disperse it throughout the absorbent core. As we mentioned, this is more difficult with fecal matter, so you’ll want high absorbency incontinence products for maximum effectiveness.
Not all BMs are liquid though, so equally important is finding a product that will contain the fecal matter until you can change it. The rule of thumb for bowel incontinence is to change your product as soon as possible after soiling, but that isn’t always possible.
The primary product types you may want to look at are:
- Protective Underwear (pull-on style)
- Briefs (tab-style closure)
- Insert Pads (non-passthrough style, ours are called Shaped Pads)
There are several important features to look for when choosing any product type for BI.
First, you’ll want a product with leakage barrier leg cuffs that creative a protective seal around the legs, containing waste. These are a must, especially if you may not be able to change the product immediately after a BM. However, unlike urine, which is quickly absorbed, solid BMs can present an additional challenge to these cuffs. If the product is not changed quickly, the weight of fecal matter can sometimes be enough to dislodge or overcome the barriers, particularly when the individual wearing them is sitting or lying down.
You’ll also want to be sure the product is made with odor control technology to lock in unwanted scents fast. Most premium products include this feature, but the effectiveness varies, especially since they are only being tested for urine odor. If you are unsatisfied with the odor control of one product, we recommend you try sampling some others until you find one that masks all or most of the smell.
High and fast absorbency is also going to be very important, especially if you or your loved one are dealing with loose fecal matter. However, it is important to be aware that absorbency (no matter how high) will be compromised after a BM. This happens because no matter what, not all of the stool will be absorbed into the material. Some of it (most of it, if it is solid) will inevitably stay behind, and get spread across the surface. The fecal matter then forms a seal that is difficult or impossible for urine to pass through, so it can’t reach the absorbent material beneath. This makes flooding and leakage more likely because the stool is interfering with the function of the product. For this reason as well, it is important to change the product as soon as possible after a BM.
If you’re using wearable products such as briefs or protective underwear, snugness will also be high on your list of things to look for. Since one of the primary concerns when dealing with BI is containment until you can change the product, wearing something that is even a little bit too big can spell disaster.
Types of Products for Bowel Incontinence
Protective underwear is a popular product for those with bowel control challenges because it offers high all-around protection and is most like regular underwear.
Bowel incontinence products must fit snugly, so be sure to find a product with a wide range of sizes (our LivDry Protective Underwear are available in sizes from X-small to 3X-large). Also, it is important to remember that different manufacturers define sizes differently – so be sure to check the size chart for measurement details before purchasing. A precise fit keeps the underwear in place and helps prevent leaks, even around the legs.
If you prefer not to pull up your incontinence product like regular underwear, or if you’re a caregiver assisting less-mobile people with bowel incontinence, then incontinence briefs are recommended. They provide durable protection while offering a custom fit using front tab closures.
The front tabs make it easier for caregivers to change soiled products, and they’re handy when you need a smaller or larger size than available through most suppliers. And sometimes, you or your patient are between sizes and require a more custom fit, which briefs provide.
Unless your bowel incontinence is very minor, you probably don’t want to rely on pads alone for handling your BMs. While they may be able to handle small amounts of solid stool, many pads are not large or secure enough to effectively trap large or solid fecal matter.
If you do want to use pads, we recommend finding non-passthrough (usually plastic-backed) ones with extra containment features such as barrier leg cuffs. We also suggest you utilize the Two-Piece System, placing the pad inside an outer layer of briefs or protective underwear.
This system works by inserting a pad into the outer product as a non-passthrough inner layer, which keeps the outer layer from becoming soiled. For both bowel and urinary incontinence, this typically saves you time and money because after soiling you only change the lower-cost pad and keep the same underwear or brief.
For BI though, using pads in this way has the added benefit of a second layer of protection. By using an insert pad inside an outer layer of brief or protective underwear, if any stool escapes from the pad, your clothes will still be protected by the secure and absorbent outer layer.
For more information about how incontinence products work together, visit the two-piece system page on our website.
Washes and Creams for Skin Care
It’s best to change your incontinence product quickly after soiling, but it’s even more critical with bowel incontinence. Prompt changes help prevent skin breakdown, sores, and incontinence dermatitis caused by the high levels of bacteria and other skin irritants.
But quick changes aren’t always possible, and skin can still become inflamed. Here are some products to help keep skin clean and protected.
These cleansing wipes are hypoallergenic, alcohol-free, and latex-free. They contain aloe and vitamin E.
This PH balanced product cleans, moisturizes, and deodorizes skin in one step. It’s latex-free and contains aloe and vitamins A, C, and E.
A pharmacist developed Formula 2 Skin Care Cream to heal dry, cracked, or irritated skin. It’s also designed to act as a barrier to protect your skin from moisture and irritants. This cream balances your skin’s PH levels and even prevents yeast buildup.
If you have bowel incontinence, it’s not uncommon to have hemorrhoids also. A pharmacist developed Formula 2 Rectal Care Cream to bring relief from hemorrhoids and similar conditions. It helps relieve pain, itching, and burning and contains 5% lidocaine, the highest non-prescription strength available.
Get Supportive Customer Service and Premium Incontinence Products
While all LivDry incontinence products are made with premium features, and some customers find success using them for BI, they are designed and tested for urinary incontinence protection only, and there are inherent limitations on their protection for bowel incontinence. Fecal matter may not always be fully contained and may hinder the products’ ability to absorb urine and protect from leaks.
Connect with us to learn more about our incontinence products. We have helpful representatives available to answer your questions by phone, live chat, or contact form. You can also shop for all our products in our online store.