While a spinal cord injury can limit mobility, but it’s also a great opportunity to get creative and find new ways to be active. It will be called a "reflex bowel." Spinal cord injuries at the T12 level and above result in reflex (aka upper motor neuron) bowels. Thirst is not a good sign of dehydration. Regular emptying of the bowels is the primary goal of a bowel program. Autonomic dysreflexia is unique to individuals with spinal cord damage above T6. Keep in mind that individuals often need to take medications much earlier than they plan to empty their bowels. Isn’t that strange? For example, if you develop a skin sore and need to be on bed rest, this decrease in activity will slow down the motility of your bowels. Establishing a bowel program will help prevent involuntary bowel movements, constipation, and impaction of the bowels. The Spinal Cord Injury nurse and doctor can help make a suitable bowel program. Medications to relieve pain and other spinal cord injury complications can negatively affect your bowel movements. Sometimes people get electrolyte imbalances if they drink too much water. This is known as a lower motor neuron or flaccid bowel. Individuals will experience loose bowel muscles due to the absence of their anal and bulbocavernosus reflexes. After spinal cord injury, Craig Hospital typically recommends 20-25 grams of fiber in your diet every day. A bowel program is a plan to retrain your body to have regular bowel movements. You can become dehydrated very easily if you are not drinking enough. Sometimes medications can be an aid in the evacuation of the stool. It will be important to maintain a regular time for the bowel program to happen because your body will eventually get used to elimination at that time. These changes result in the loss of sensation of the need for defaecation, loss of voluntary control of defaecation and loss of … As a result, they may not be ideal for long-term use. The muscles are loose and involuntary bowel movements are very common because the colon has lost its muscle tone. A healthy functioning bowel system is the combination of many factors. Some things that you can do to increase your fiber intake include starting your day with a bowl of high fiber cereal. If you don’t have fluid restrictions we recommend drinking between two to three liters of water every day. To help you adjust to and manage the changes, your healthcare team has helped you create a bowel program to follow on a regular basis. We highly suggest promoting bowel movements through changes in activity, diet, and fluid intake before trying medications, as they can come with undesirable side effects. The body does not readily digest fiber so it stays in the colon. Bowel function after Spinal Cord Injury. Just getting up and out of bed is an important activity for overall health and well-being. Spinal cord injury doesn’t look the same for everyone, nor does the proper bowel program look the same for everyone. 2. However, individuals who cannot sit should lay on their left side as it corresponds with the direction of the colon. While laxatives can help with bowel complications like constipation, individuals can build a tolerance to them and may experience unfavorable side effects. Below, we’ll go over 7 key factors that should be considered when developing a bowel program for spinal cord injury patients. The information on this page is a public service provided by Craig Hospital and in no way represents a recommendation or endorsement by Craig Hospital. stand how spinal cord injury (SCI) can affect and change bowel* function. 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