A hyperactive colon is commonly referred to as an irritable bowel. The condition is a dysfunction of the large intestine, which can cause digestive challenges and discomfort.
When your nerves overreact or react inappropriately to food, it can be pushed through too quickly or too slowly, often causing constipation or diarrhoea. It is common for individuals to experience periods of remission which can last for months or years at a time. Although incontinence remains a taboo subject, about two in ten people in the UK have a hyperactive colon. You should therefore never feel alone if you are suffering from this.
Just like any form of bowel complication and incontinence, knowing how to manage it can make all the difference.
Managing a Hyperactive Colon: Where do you Start?
Establish the Cause
The first step in treating a hyperactive colon is to see a Doctor. Although you may be embarrassed to talk to a Doctor about this problem, talking can provide invaluable help. A Doctor can underline the cause of your faecal incontinence and inform you of how it can be treated. Many factors influence the type of treatment your Doctor will recommend for you. You can also seek advice on how to relieve discomfort and cope with your faecal incontinence. Patient characteristics which influence your treatment method include mental status, mobility impairment and typical bowel habits. These causes of faecal incontinence can usually be identified by a history and physical examination.
When it comes to finding treatment, you should consider that a hyperactive colon can be divided into three types based on your symptoms: constipation-predominant, diarrhoea-predominant or mixed. Establishing the most effective method of medication depends on the symptoms you are experiencing. Diarrhea is caused by abnormally frequent muscle contractions of the large intestine, which passes waste at a quicker rate than normal. In managing diarrhoea, antidiarrheal medications such as loperamide and diphenoxylate or bile acid binders may help. Constipation, on the other hand, is a reaction to long periods of diarrhoea with the body slowing the digestive proves down to counteract the overactive intestine. Constipation can also be caused by the colon becoming hypersensitive and overacting to mild stimulation. Instead of rhythmic movements, the muscles can spasm. Retired Librarian Gerard shared his experience of cleaning up an average of 25 incidents of his mother’s faecal incontinence each year for 5 years. His mother suffered from constipation, which was so severe it was causing faecal overflow. He explains that once he plucked up the courage to phone the National Continence helpline, a Nurse recommended long-term use of osmotic laxatives for treating constipation. She also provided Gerard with the most ideal toileting times for his mother. In contrast to diarrheal treatment, this condition responds to combinations of laxatives, education and habit training in 60 percent in patients.
If you have failed medical management or have evidence of sphincter weakness, anorectal manometry and endoanal ultrasound are recommended for differentiating simple morphologic defects from nerve injury. Additionally, a method called biofeedback is a harmless and inexpensive treatment which benefits 75% of patients choosing this treatment. Biofeedback is a behavioural therapy used to treat people with bowel d If there is a known, repairable structural defect without significant neurologic injury, external anal sphincter plication with or without pelvic floor repair is often recommended by Doctors. This method is proven to effective in 68 percent of patients.
Invest in Protection
When choosing a product for managing a hyperactive colon it is important to ensure the product is adaptable to meet individual preferences, different types of activities and to the time of use. If you have very mild faecal incontinence as a result of a hyperactive colon, incontinence pads may be suitable for you. Pads are also an ideal option for people who prioritise discretion or find it difficult to do a full diaper change. The Attends F6 pads are designed especially for managing faecal incontinence and are discretely designed to maintain your dignity. If your leaks are heavier, however, all-in-one products and absorbent underwear are an effective method for managing the condition.
If you are fairly mobile, the most absorbent pull-up underwear such as Tena Pants Super are probably the best option. These pants enable the wearer to use them as they would normal underwear but with the added security of elasticated leg cuffs, elasticated waistband and standing gathers. The pants have a built-in absorbent pad for effective security. These products are highly absorbent however are less convenient to put on, making them suitable for people with an active lifestyle.
If you require the high-level absorbency of an all in one pad, however, are less mobile, a belted all-in-one such as Tena Flex Maxi provides a high absorbency, however, is easily removed for normal toilet use wherever possible. All in ones are perfect for users with a lower mobility as they are easy to put on and take off. In belted all in ones, the breakthrough design of an integrated fastening belt with elastic delivers maximum comfort.
Make the Necessary Lifestyle Changes
There are a number of vital lifestyle changes you can make to manage a hyperactive colon efficiently. Although an excessive strenuous activity may cause diarrhoea, moderate physical activity regulates normal bowel habits and reduces irritable bowel symptoms. You could consider doing regular running sessions or doing gentle exercise such as swimming. Symptoms of an irritable bowel can even be worsened through stress and anxiety, therefore it may be useful to try and reduce emotional upset and stress. You may want to try self-hypnosis and other psychological therapy to treat anxiety that is caused by having an irritable bowel. This can both prevent faecal incontinence incidents and make any symptoms easier to deal with.
To stay healthy whilst managing a hyperactive colon, you should consume at least eight cups of fluid per day, especially water or other non-caffeinated drinks. This helps to keep the stools soft and easy to pass along the gut. Consider limiting intake of high-fibre food. Foods in this category include beans, brown or wholegrain rice and bran-based cereal. Limit fresh fruit to three portions per day to avoid irritating your digestive system and avoid artificial sweeteners found in sugar-free sweets and drinks. You can read our blog about the ideal diet plan for faecal-incontinence for more advice on this.
Don’t Forget about Hygiene…Maintain Skin Integrity
The worries and embarrassment associated with personal hygiene can lead individuals with a severe hyperactive colon to isolate themselves. Incontinence has a number of detrimental effects on skin integrity. This is linked to an increased risk of developing pressure ulcers. Faeces that is left on the skin can even cause associated dermatitis. Faeces on the skin can cause an increase in the PH of the skin, excessive hydration and increased permeability. When urine and faeces are mixed, ammonia is produced. The resulting high PH of the skin allows increased activity of the faecal enzymes. Diarrhea, in particular, can cause excessive hydration, as the stool adds fluid to the area and faecal enzymes can cause skin damage. Developing a skin care routine and looking after personal hygiene is important for confidence and comfort. Cleansing the skin is an incredibly important stage to removing any faeces or dirt from the skin. This can be done most effectively by using products specially designed for continence care. Recent studies have been published highlighting the link between traditional soap and water-based bed bathing and healthcare-associated infections. Specialists have found that the removal of washbowls and replacement with a pre-packaged solution demonstrated a significant reduction in urinary tract infections. Cleansing wet wipes feature a moisturising composition that deodorises skin and fights bacteria to aid with infection control. This offers front-line protection against potentially harmful bacteria. Incontinence wet wipes are an effective personal hygiene aid when a sink and soap are not readily available. Bed bath wipes offer a method for cleaning all parts of the body. Alternatively, dry wipes that have not been pre-moistened provide effective cleaning by wetting with warm water. You can also use dry wipes alongside your choice of cleansing foam. Most skin cleansers are designed to match the PH of the skin, thus not stripping it of sebum. They have varying functions to cleanse, moisturise, soak up spills and liquids as well as offering anti-bacterial protection. A benefit of dry wipes is that they are often free from chemicals and perfume, making them ideal for regular use. The skin should be dried thoroughly after washing, and gentle patting is the preferred method.
You can find out more about managing a hyperactive colon in our faecal incontinence section.