What Is Bowel
Bowel retraining is a program that helps people who have chronic
constipation or a frequent loss of bowel control. The program involves trying
to go to the bathroom at the same time every day in an attempt to help train your
body to have regular bowel movements. You’ll need to set a time each day in
which you try to have a bowel movement.
When choosing a time, keep in mind your current daily
elimination habits, diet, and lifestyle, including your work schedule.
Maintaining a regular pattern is critical for ensuring the success of a bowel
retraining program, so select a time that’s convenient for you. After several
weeks, you’ll ideally have a bowel movement around the same time every day.
What Is the
Purpose of Bowel Retraining?
Your doctor may recommend a bowel retraining program to help
you regain control of bowel patterns, pass stools regularly, and pass stools of
an expected consistency.
Bowel retraining can be very effective for many people.
However, some people may not benefit from bowel retraining, including those who:
- are receiving treatment for cancers affecting
the gastrointestinal tract
- are unable to eat three regular meals per day
- are unable to drink at least eight glasses of
liquids each day
- have a weakened anal sphincter
Talk your doctor about the possibility of starting a bowel
retraining program if you can eat and drink enough to maintain a regular bowel
Prepare for Bowel Retraining
Before you begin a bowel retraining program, your doctor
will recommend that you keep a symptom diary. In this diary, you’ll record:
- the times of voluntary bowel movements
- the times of involuntary bowel movements
- any associated symptoms you may be having
- all of the foods you’ve eaten
- all of the drinks you’ve consumed
Reviewing this diary can help you determine whether you’re
eating and drinking enough to have regular bowel movements. It may also help
you identify a time of day that’s best for your bowel retraining program.
Expect During Bowel Retraining
A bowel retraining program involves addressing all the
factors that might affect your ability to have a more normal bowel elimination
pattern. While your doctor may make different recommendations based on your particular
situation, bowel retraining programs typically consist of the following steps.
- Choose a regular time each day in which you try to
have a bowel movement. As a general rule, it’s best to pick a time that falls
between 20 and 40 minutes after eating, and most doctors recommend going in the
morning, about 20 minutes after eating breakfast.
- Spend 10 to 15 minutes on the toilet to see if
you can have a bowel movement. Make sure you don’t strain as you try to go.
- If you don’t pass a stool, resume your regular
daily activities. Remember that it can take time to train your bowels, so try
not to worry about your inability to have a bowel movement at first.
If you aren’t able to pass a stool at this given time every
day, try using an enema to stimulate your bowels. An enema is a fluid that can
be injected through the rectum to help encourage bowel movements. You may also
want to consider drinking prune juice or inserting a rectal suppository to trigger
a bowel movement. Ideally, you’ll only have to use these methods for a short period
while your body adjusts to bowel retraining.
Some bowel retraining programs also involve working with a
therapist on biofeedback. Biofeedback is a type of therapy that helps you learn
more about how your body works. This knowledge can enable you to gain more
control over bodily functions, including bowel movements. During bowel
retraining, biofeedback can help you identify the differences between stomach
pain and pain from needing to go to the bathroom. It can also teach you how to
use different muscles in your body to pass stool without straining.
Ideally, you’ll be able to have a bowel movement every day
within several weeks of starting a bowel retraining program. However, some
people may find that they’re only able to have a normal
bowel movement every three days.
Risks of Bowel Retraining
Bowel retraining often doesn’t work right away, so you may
feel stressed and frustrated at first. However, approaching a bowel retraining
program with a more relaxed attitude can be vital to your success. Remember
that bowel retraining does take time, it can eventually be very effective.
Expect After Bowel Retraining
Sticking to your regular pattern after bowel retraining can
help you maintain your results. This may involve consuming the same amount of
foods and liquids as well as taking your medications each day. You should call
your doctor if you haven’t had a bowel movement in five days or if you’re
experiencing nausea, stomach cramping, or a fever.