Community Marketing Manager, Bladder & Bowel Community
There are 6.5 million adults in the UK who suffer from some sort of bowel problem₁, with over half a million experiencing faecal incontinence that has a negative impact on their life.
Having ‘tummy troubles’ can have a huge psychological impact on a person’s life as well as the obvious physiological symptoms and is a problem that we are still reluctant to see our GP about.
Angela Fowler, 53 has a condition called Bile Acid Malabsorption (BAM/BAD), which causes painful and urgent diarrhoea several times a day and can lead to bowel incontinence. BAM is estimated to affect one in 100 people in the UK₂ although it is a relatively unknown condition due to limited access to diagnostic testing.
“Around seven years ago, I was a healthy, tee-total gym goer. One night, I went to bed with what I thought was a bad case of wind and ended up in A&E with acute gallstone pancreatitis.
“After surgery to remove my gallbladder, I started to experience issues with my bowel. Everything I ate literally went straight through me and I started to experience bowel leakage. I was told this would settle down over time but it didn’t, so I was sent to a gastroenterologist for further tests. The consultant suspected I had BAM, so I was sent to have a SeHCAT scan, a non-invasive procedure which involves swallowing a tablet containing synthetic bile acids and being scanned four hours later and then a week later. The test confirmed I had BAM.”
Don’t be embarrassed as doctors aren’t easily shocked.
Major life changes
“Having BAM and bowel incontinence has changed my life in so many ways and although my confidence has been greatly impacted, I’m determined to carry on with life as best as I can. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had accidents in public, although I did cry the first time it happened. My motto for life now is ‘be prepared’; I wear incontinence pads and carry my ‘Just Can’t Wait’ card and Radar key in case I urgently need the toilet. I also pack a change of clothes and a toilet roll.
“I have good and bad days, but I always try to stay positive. I would say that if anyone is suffering from these issues, it’s important to speak to your doctor. Don’t be embarrassed as doctors aren’t easily shocked. If I can learn to live with this, then so can you!”
There are tools available that can help you feel more secure whilst you’re out if you have bowel incontinence such as the Digital Just Can’t Wait card from the Bladder and Bowel Community. This can be downloaded to your smartphone easily and quickly accessed if an emergency arises.