Flatus incontinence is any accidental or involuntary loss of wind from the bowel. It’s a dysfunction of the bowel that means it is more noticeable when you pass wind as you are unable to restrain it.
Passing wind is part of a normal, healthy digestive system and cannot and should not be completely prevented. Usually, it is not too smelly and offensive.
The gas you release is a combination of air (swallowed as you eat or drink or smoke) and gas produced by the colonic microbiota (live microbes) in your digestive system as they break down your food.
If your internal sphincter has nerve damage, you may not be stimulated by the gas as it passes through, so you can pass wind without knowing it was coming. If you do feel the urge to pass wind, you contract your external sphincter to keep it in until an appropriate time. If this sphincter is damaged or weak, you may have no control over stopping the gas.
60% of people with faecal incontinence (involuntary loss of poo from their bowels) also experience flatus incontinence but it often occurs in isolation. Men and women of any age can suffer from it and although not life-threatening, flatus incontinence can lead to social isolation, depression and anxiety.
For some people, lifestyle changes and/or medical treatment will help reduce symptoms – for others, management is the only option.
Symptoms of Flatus Incontinence
You may be suffering from flatus incontinence if you:
- cannot prevent wind from escaping
- pass gas more than 25 times a day
- try and avoid flatulence causing foods
- are often constipated
- visit the toilet just to pass wind, to reduce the risk of farting at an inappropriate time
Flatus incontinence can be a symptom of a more serious bowel condition, such as Irritable Bowel Disease, coeliac disease, or food intolerance.
Causes of Flatus Incontinence
You can suffer from flatus incontinence after experiencing damage to your internal and/or external sphincter muscles. This may be caused by:
- Childbirth – In otherwise healthy women, giving birth is the main cause of flatus incontinence. The risk is higher if you have a complicated childbirth where forceps or a vacuum are used, if the baby weighed over 4kg, it was a multiple birth, and/or if you experienced a tear. These factors leave your pelvic muscles weak and your sphincters damaged.
- Constipation – The longer faecal matter sits in the colon and ferments, the more gas is produced.
- Disease and injury – sufferers of Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, a spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s, spina bifida or diabetes have a greater risk of developing flatus incontinence due to nerve damage. The sensation of needing to pass wind can be lost, along with the ability to control it.
- Surgery – During a lower abdominal or urological surgery, accidental nerve damage can occur. This can prevent your muscles from functioning correctly to retain wind until an appropriate time.
- Carrying excess body weight – This can weaken your pelvic floor by putting unnecessary pressure on it.
- Age – The risk of suffering from flatus incontinence increases above age 35.
- Smoking – Smoking can lead to a huge list of health problems including many diseases and dysfunctions of the digestive system. The chronic cough many smokers have also strains and weakens the pelvic floor.
- Food intolerance – Food intolerances, e.g. gluten or lactose, can increase the production of wind.
- embarrassment and shame
- an overwhelming sense of loss and grief at inability to control this bodily function
- anxiety and depression
- low self-esteem or confidence
- a loss of desire for intimacy
- feeling lonely and isolated
These concerns can greatly affect the quality of your life and your mental well-being.
That’s one of the beautiful things about Shreddies – they give you your life back. You can go out, have fun, enjoy all the things you used to do before flatus incontinence became part of your life.
If not being able to hold back your wind is holding YOU back, get into the pants that hold all that worry for you. The activated carbon lining in Shreddies underwear absorbs and eliminates all flatulence odours.
No smell means no worries! Shreddies will help give you your life back.