Bowel problems in men

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Both men and women may have bowel problems. Common bowel symptoms include constipation and diarrhoea. Bowel leakage (faecal incontinence) can occur because of these problems. Passing gas or wind is a normal, bodily function however it can be uncomfortable, particularly if there is a build of gas. Men tend to pass a greater quantity of gas than women.  

Constipation

Constipation refers to three things happening with the bowels – the stools are hard and dry (or lumpy), straining is required to empty the bowel, and the bowels are opened infrequently, that is, less than three times per week. When constipated the stools may become very large, and may be difficult to flush if they block the toilet. 

Diarrhoea 

Diarrhoea refers to unformed stools that are loose and watery. Diarrhoea can occur because of an infection e.g. gastroenteritis or can occur if certain foods are consumed, particularly in large quantities.  

Bowel problems may be caused many things including:

  • Poor diet or a change in diet or fluid intake 
  • Inactivity or being less active
  • Change in routine, especially with toileting
  • Medicines and supplements 
  • Psychological issues such as stress 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis
  • Bowel cancer 

Other related bowel issues include haemorrhoids (piles) and anal fissures (a tear is the opening of the anus). 

Important: See your healthcare professional if you have concerns with discomfort, pain or bleeding in the rectal area.  

Hints to keep your bowel happy and healthy 

  • Eat a diet rich in fibre from a variety of sources including grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. 
  • Ensure you are well hydrated and that your fluid intake includes plain water where possible. It is best to limit drinks containing caffeine or alcohol as these can upset the bowel. 
  • Try to respond to the sensation that you need to empty your bowel, particularly if you are prone to constipation. Deferring this urge can make the problem worse. It is often helpful to try and establish a routine for a time that works best with your bowel activity, such as after breakfast. 
  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes each day and avoid sitting for longer than 30 minutes at a time if possible. 
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners, particularly if the packaging warns of a potential laxative effect with excessive consumption. 
  • Find time to unwind and relax each day. 

Contact us for more information on how to prevent and manage constipation or diarrhoea. 

Disclaimer 

If your bowel habit has changed or alternates between diarrhoea and constipation and this change goes on for more than a week it is important to get this assessed by your doctor.  It is also important to let your doctor know of any related increase of gas, smaller diameter stools, blood or mucous in the stools or pain when using the bowels. 

Always seek medical advice if you are concerned about your health.

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Kylie – parent of a child that wets the bed 

Kylie rang our service as she was concerned about her five-year-old daughter, Mia, who was wetting the bed. Kylie had tried limiting Mia’s drinks in the late afternoon and evening and was also getting up at night to wake Mia and take her to the toilet.

Our advisor explained that it may take children until they around 5 ½ years old before they gain bladder control during sleep. Kylie was advised to encourage Mia to drink well throughout the day and was cautioned against cutting out drinks in the afternoon and early evening. Kylie was discouraged from waking Mia at night to take her to the toilet. Kylie was provided with information on obtaining a referral from Mia’s doctor to a bedwetting clinic if Mia continues to wet the bed past 5 ½ years of age.

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Anastasiya’s story

“As a mum of two young children, I have experienced the joys of two pregnancies and postpartum recoveries. I was shocked after the birth of my first child to discover that my pelvic floor muscles had become weak. I sought advice from Bladder and Bowel Health Australia and learnt the importance of exercising these muscles. This knowledge helped, and because I was better informed second time around, I have now fully restored the dignity of my body and truly enjoyed the changes - and my motherhood. Thank you, Bladder and Bowel Health Australia, for informing young families about bladder and bowel health issues.” 

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Doreen – carer of her husband who has dementia 

Doreen was becoming exhausted caring for her husband Tom, who has dementia. Tom was not always making it to the toilet on time and needed his trousers to be changed several times a day. Every day Doreen was also washing bedlinen and the four towels that Tom was laying on at night as he was soaking through his pull-up pants. 

Tom was receiving a high-level Home Care Package, and Doreen was able to arrange with their provider for some of Tom’s package to be allocated to funding continence assessment and management.  

Our advisor went to Tom’s home and conducted a thorough continence assessment. A continence management plan was developed with input from Doreen, and appropriate incontinence aids and linen protection were organised. Doreen is relieved that Tom’s incontinence has reduced, and her washing load has lessened. Doreen is now confident that she can continue caring for Tom in their home. 

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Gary – experiencing leakage after his recent prostate surgery 

Gary met with one of our Bladder and Bowel Health advisors, as he was concerned about his urine leakage that was persisting after his radical prostatectomy five weeks earlier.   

Gary discussed his concerns with the advisor and was reassured that he was making good progress towards regaining bladder control. This reinforced the information he had received from his urologist. Gary was encouraged to switch to a smaller incontinence pad rather than continuing to wear the pull- up incontinence pants he had worn since his surgery. The advisor arranged some smaller pads for him to trial and provided details on where he could buy them close to his home. 

Gary was encouraged to drink plenty of fluid (particularly water) and to increase his fruit and vegetable intake to avoid constipation. Gary was uncertain if his pelvic floor muscles were working properly and he was referred to a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Gary left the clinic in a brighter frame of mind, confident that he was improving and had clear strategies to further support his recovery.