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Symptom spotlight: Bladder and bowel issues

bladbowel.jpgToilet trouble is very common in MS

Bladder and bowel issues affect a large number of people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). Problems in these areas can seriously affect quality of life, as you may be afraid to leave the house for fear of having an ‘accident’, and therefore symptoms can impact on your independence and social activities.


No two people experience bladder and bowel issues in the same way, as is true of most MS symptoms. For some, the problem is incontinence, where they cannot control the release of urine of faeces. For others, they may have issues with starting the flow of urine.

Home help

Experts advise you try to drink plenty of water. Though that can seem counterintuitive for bladder problems, especially if you have incontinence, if you don’t drink enough water it means urine in the bladder will be more concentrated, which can cause urinary tract infections. Aim for between one and two litres of fluids a day. If you struggle with plain water, adding slices of fruit can help make it more palatable.

Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame can be helpful as they are all bladder irritants.

For bowel problems, start keeping a bowel diary so that you can share it with your healthcare team. There are apps that can help with this, such as the Bristol Stool Chart app. This will help your healthcare team get a clearer picture of what’s going on.

With constipation, you can try increasing both your fluid and fibre intake, doing regular exercise if you can, and there are certain abdominal massages which can help.

You could also try a Squatty Potty, or a similar type of small stool that goes around the base of your toilet and alters the position of your bowel. Before toilets were invented, humans would naturally squat to go to the toilet, and this stool allows you to benefit from that position, while still using a toilet. Some people find this helps ease constipation.