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Bowel Problems

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Managing MS Bladder and Bowel Symptoms Telelearning

Learn strategies for managing bowel and bladder symptoms in MS with Pat Kennedy, RN, CNP, MSCN, Can Do Multiple Sclerosis and Dr. Marlene Murphy Setzko of the Mandell MS Center.

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Managing Bladder and Bowel Issues in MS

People with MS may find that bladder and bowel symptoms prevent them from fully interacting with their community, friends and family. It doesn’t need to be that way. Once diagnosed, these common MS symptoms are manageable and treatable. Learn about the latest advances and recommendations from clinicians at the forefront of MS research and treatment, and from people living with MS as they share experiences and insights. nationalMSsociety.org/bladderbowel

Overview

Bowel dysfunction can cause a great deal of discomfort and embarrassment, and can aggravate other MS symptoms such as spasticity or bladder dysfunction. Constipation, loss of control of the bowels, and diarrhea are among the bowel problems that can occur in MS (.pdf). Causes of constipation include:

  • insufficient fluid intake,
  • reduced physical activity and mobility, and
  • decreased or slowed “motility” (movement of food through the intestinal tract).
  • Certain medications, such as antidepressants or drugs used to control bladder symptoms, might also cause constipation.

Loss of bowel control in MS could be neurologic in origin (or related to constipation) and should be evaluated by a physician or nurse.

Bowel regularity

A healthcare provider can help establish an effective bowel management program. Occasionally, it might be necessary to consult a gastroenterologist, a physician specializing in the stomach and bowel.

Bowel regularity generally can be maintained by following a few simple guidelines:

  • Drink adequate amounts of fluids — at least 48 ounces (6 to 8 glasses) of fluids daily.
  • Include plenty of fiber in your diet. Fiber can be obtained from fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, and dietary additives such as powdered psyllium preparations.
  • Get some physical activity. It helps keep things moving.
  • Establish a regular time and schedule for emptying the bowels (bowel training/retraining).
  • Discuss remedies such as stool softeners, bulk forming supplements, enemas, suppositories or manual stimulation with your healthcare provider. It may take several weeks to know if these remedies are working. Continuous or regular use of laxatives is generally not recommended.

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