Bowel Dysfunction

Bowel dysfunction is the inability to control bowel movements, including problems with the frequency and consistency of bowel movements.  

What is Normal?

  • having a poo as often as 3 times a day to 3 times a week
  • poo should be moist and well formed (not too hard and lumpy and not too soft and mushy)
  • It should be easy to pass without straining or pain
  • you should feel empty afterwards

Loss of bowel control

This may show in a variety of ways:

  • Leakage of stool: symptoms involve staining in pants or leakage on way to toilet
  • Leakage of mucus: passive leakage in pants without noticing
  • Inability to control flatus: flatus escapes easily with movement
  • Urgency of stool: having to run to toilet as soon as you feel the urge and sometimes without making it in time
  • Difficulty cleaning: having to go back and wipe repeatedly

Chronic Constipation

Symptoms can be:

  • You have to strain a lot to poo 
  • Your poos are hard and lumpy
  • You feel unfinished after having a poo
  • You feel bloated, stomach pain and discomfort
  • Your poo less often than is usual for you

In some cases:

  • You may have a bad taste in your mouth, bad breath, decreased appetite, lethargy.
  • Passing foul smelling wind
  • Leaking of liquid or loose stools. When large stools get stuck and block the bowel, liquid stool can pass the blockage.

Causes of constipation

  • Not drinking enough fluid
  • Not eating enough fibre
  • Putting off going to the toilet
  • Not moving enough and spending long periods of time sitting or lying in bed
  • Not exercising
  • A side effect of medication
  • Changing your daily routine or diet
  • Some neurological problems such as Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis

Constipation Leaflet

NHS YouTube: How to Treat Constipation

Bladder and Bowel UK: Macrogols Info

    Obstructed defaecation syndrome (ODS) also known as anismus

    It means inappropriate tightening of or inability to relax the muscles in your back passage and pelvic floor, making it difficult to open your bowels and pass stools (poo).

    During a normal bowel movement, all the muscles inside your pelvis, including the anal sphincter, must relax in order to allow passage of faeces or stool (poo) out of the body. Sometimes, these muscles fail to relax; or they can even squeeze instead of relaxing.

    This can cause the symptoms such as:

    • Difficulty in opening your bowels. You could experience straining or the inability to pass stool.
    • The feeling of not having “finished” on the toilet and not having completely emptied your bowels (called tenesmus).
    • Feeling of blockage or obstruction in your back passage.
    • Needing to use a finger to help get the stool out

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system. The most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habits. It causes symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. These tend to come and go over time, and can last for days, weeks or months at a time.

    It's usually a lifelong problem. The exact cause is unknown – it's been linked to things like food passing through your gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in your gut, stress and a family history of IBS.

    Please watch this video has more information on IBS

    YouTube: What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

    Self Help Tips

    • Drink plenty of fluid to avoid constipation (1.5 - 2 litres of fluid) avoid caffeine, fizzy drinks and sweeteners as they may irritate your bowel making you more loose
    • Don’t ignore the need to empty your bowel - when you need to go to the toilet, try not to panic and rush to get there
    • Sitting position on the toilet is really helpfulIdeally knees should be higher that hips
    • Lean forward with a straight back
    • Avoid straining
    • Do not hold your breath, try to breath out as you let go
    • Train your Pelvic floor muscles and get them working when you feel the urge
    • Elasticated waist bands are easier to manage in a hurry

    Useful information

    These websites have additional information to help you take care of yourself.

    For patients who live in Kirklees and surrounding areas

    For patients who live in Calderdale and surrounding areas

    Calderdale's Community Information Directory | Calderdale Bladder and Bowel Service (

    Sphincter Exercises for people with bowel control problems

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