How Spina Bifida Occulta Can Affect Bowel Function

Spina bifida occulta is a condition where the spinal cord does not fully develop, but the spinal cord and nerves are still protected by the spine. While some people with spina bifida occulta may not experience any symptoms, others may have bowel problems. In this post, we'll explore the potential effects of spina bifida occulta on bowel function and provide tips on how to manage these issues.

What is spina bifida occulta?

Spina bifida occulta is a type of neural tube defect where the spinal cord does not fully develop, but the spinal cord and nerves are still protected by the spine. It is the mildest form of spina bifida and often goes unnoticed as it does not cause any visible physical abnormalities. However, in some cases, it can cause bowel problems and other complications. Spina bifida occulta is usually diagnosed through an X-ray or MRI.

How can it affect bowel function?

Spina bifida occulta can affect bowel function in some individuals by causing constipation, incontinence, and difficulty emptying the bowels. This is because the nerves that control bowel function may be affected by the incomplete development of the spinal cord. It is important for individuals with spina bifida occulta to work with their healthcare provider to manage these symptoms through dietary changes, medication, and other interventions. Regular bowel movements are important for overall health and well-being.

Symptoms to look out for.

If you have spina bifida occulta, it is important to be aware of the potential bowel symptoms that may arise. These can include constipation, difficulty passing stool, incontinence, and abdominal pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about possible interventions to manage them. This may include changes to your diet, medication, or other therapies. By working with your healthcare team, you can help to manage your symptoms and maintain good bowel health.

Treatment options for bowel problems.

Treatment options for bowel problems associated with spina bifida occulta may vary depending on the severity of the symptoms. In some cases, simple changes to diet and lifestyle may be enough to manage symptoms. This may include increasing fiber intake, staying hydrated, and engaging in regular physical activity. In more severe cases, medication or other therapies may be necessary. Your healthcare provider can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and helps you maintain good bowel health.

Lifestyle changes to manage bowel issues.

For individuals with spina bifida occulta who experience bowel problems, making certain lifestyle changes can be helpful in managing symptoms. Increasing fiber intake through foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help regulate bowel movements. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can also help. Regular physical activity, such as walking or swimming, can improve bowel function and overall health. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to develop a personalised plan that addresses your specific needs.

Diet And Lifestyle

Individuals with spina bifida occulta may experience bowel problems, such as constipation. To maintain a healthy bowel, it is important to consume a balanced diet with plenty of fiber and fluids, particularly water (6-8 glasses a day). It is recommended to limit or avoid caffeine, fizzy drinks, and alcohol as they can irritate the bladder. Despite urinary incontinence, increasing fluid intake can help regulate the bladder and reduce the risk of bladder infections. Over time, the bladder will adapt to the correct volume and less concentrated urine will cause less irritation.

Bladder And/ Or Bowel Retraining

Individuals with spina bifida occulta may experience bowel problems due to nerve damage in the lower spine. Bowel retraining can be helpful in establishing a regular routine and retraining the brain to hold on. This involves going to the bathroom when the urge arises and gradually increasing the time held before sitting down. It is also important to regulate bathroom visits to avoid accidents and record any foods or drinks that may affect bowel function in a diary. By following these steps, individuals can improve their bowel control and overall quality of life.

Establish Routines

Individuals with spina bifida occulta may experience bowel problems, but creating a routine can help prevent accidents. It is recommended to go to the toilet after every meal or every few hours and maintain regular eating and drinking times. However, it is important to limit drinks two hours before bedtime to avoid accidents overnight. It is crucial to ensure that enough fluids are consumed during the day.


Spina Bifida And Incontinence - Bladder & Bowel Community (

Spina bifida - Symptoms - NHS (

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