Bowel dysfunction can not only be inconvenient but also embarrassing. And it may promote other conditions in MS, such as spasticity and bladder problems.

As MS interrupts or slows the transmission of electrical signals to and from the brain, it may also impair the muscles involved in clearing the bowel.

Common bowel problems in MS

The most common bowel dysfunction in MS is constipation. It is usually due to a poor diet and lack of physical activity.

Other bowel dysfunctions in MS patients are incontinence, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. Incontinence is an inability to control bowel movements. Diarrhea stems from too much water in the stool when it reaches the rectum. Hallmarks of irritable bowel syndrome include alternating constipation and diarrhea, followed by abdominal cramps and gas pain.

Medical tests to assess bowel problems

MS patients who are older than 50 should take lower digestive system examinations. A rectal exam, a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy are the most appropriate.

None requires a hospital stay.

Everyday practices to improve bowel movement health  

A few routine practices can help MS patients prevent their bowel problems from worsening.

Two of them are adding fiber to the diet and drinking lots of fluids, whether or not you’re thirsty. Two others are engaging in regular physical activity and setting a specific time each day to empty your bowel.

Drugs that can address bowel problems

There are occasions when drugs are necessary to improve bowel movements.

Colace (docusate) is a prescription drug that is used to relieve constipation. It prevents dry and hard stools by serving as a stool softener. This kind of drug works as a laxative, easing bowel movements.

Dulcolax (bisacodyl) addresses occasional constipation. It stimulates bowel muscles to induce a bowel movement. It should be taken with a full glass of water. While taking Dulcolax, avoid antacids, or acid-neutralizing drugs, and milk.

Enemeez (docusate stool softener) is an enema or stool softener that puts water in the stool. It is used to relieve occasional constipation.

Fleet Enema (sodium phosphate) is used in children and adults to treat occasional constipation or eliminate stool before a medical procedure. The drug, administered rectally, puts water in the large intestine to produce a bowel movement.

Metamucil (psyllium) is a natural substance that is used as a laxative. It works by absorbing water and easing intestinal swelling, promoting bulky stool formation. It also stimulates bowel movements.

Mineral oil can work as a lubricant laxative for occasional constipation. The oil, which is swallowed, slows water absorption, while creating a waterproof coating in the bowel and stool.

Phillips Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide) is a laxative that helps send water to the large intestine. It is a saline-based hyperosmotic laxative, commonly used for rapid emptying the bowel and addressing other maladies. Diarrhea is a common side effect of this laxative.

Sani-Supp (glycerin) is a brand of suppositories to relieve constipation. It works as a hyperosmotic laxative, increasing fluid in the intestines. The water softens the stool and promotes bowel action.

It’s always easier to prevent problems than treat them, of course. Appropriate lifestyle habits and a regular schedule of elimination may be the keys to stopping bowel problems.

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