Bowel Dysfunction

Bowel Dysfunction

Problems related to bowel movements, constipation and/or loss of bowel control can affect people of all ages, both men and women, and may have a considerable impact on everyday life. Normal bowel movements range from three times a day to three times a week. Common problems include constipation; difficulty emptying well or wiping clean; urgency resulting in a rush to the toilet and perhaps a bowel accident; soiling in the underwear that you weren’t aware of or felt any warning about; or excessive wind that is difficult to control.

It is important that you are individually assessed to ascertain the type of dysfunction that is causing your symptoms in order to follow the best course of treatment. There may be a lot of variability in how often you go and the consistency of the bowel motion (stool or poo) but the following tips may be useful in most cases;


  • Eat little and often, and never miss breakfast! Try to have something every 2-3 hours to keep your gut regular, avoiding very long gaps between meals. Three meals and three snacks are ideal, making sure that these snacks are nutritious.
  • Fibre is important for a healthy bowel and forming a good stool consistency. Some foods contain fibres that soften your stool while other foods contain fibre that gives your stool bulk/substance. The goal is to eat a balanced amount of each to achieve a stool that is soft, smooth, formed and easy to move!
  • Fibre needs fluid to be effective regardless of your stool type. Make sure you are getting in at least 1.5 – 2 litres daily, the majority of which should ideally be water.


  • Sit well on the toilet, relax and do not hover! If possible put a small footstool or step under your feet to lift the feet/knees.
  • Relax, lean forward, breath normally and do not strain.
  • It’s important to take your time to allow for good emptying without straining, regardless of the consistency of your bowel motion. Even soft stools can be difficult to empty well.


  • Daily exercise helps to promote regular bowel activity and benefits your overall health.

Pelvic Floor Muscles

  • Many bowel symptoms have one thing in common, and that is pelvic floor muscles or anal sphincter muscles that are not performing well. For some it is weakness resulting in poor control but for others it may be poor co-ordination resulting in difficulty emptying. Your specialist physiotherapist will assess these muscles and prescribe a specific pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation programme. This may include exercises, biofeedback, balloon training, advice and education depending on your individual assessment.