Separate Fact from Fiction: 5 ABL Myths
By Kelly Brezoczky
Founder & Executive Director
Healthy Mature Living Foundation and
Managing Editor

Myth #1: I feel like I’m alone with ABL

Many people are surprised to learn that they’re not the only ones when it comes to ABL. Research studies published in the past decade show ABL is a surprisingly common condition affecting tens of millions of women and men.1,2,3,4,5 Two studies have also shown that 1 in 5 women over the age of 40 are affected by ABL1,4—that’s 15 million women in the US alone. Research also indicates that men may be affected in similar numbers.2 Learning the facts about ABL can help start a new conversation. The truth is that ABL is a common condition and you’re not alone.

Myth #2: ABL is due to age and is an inevitable part of aging

While it's true that ABL is surprisingly common, "it's a misconception that ABL will happen to everyone as they age," says Dr. Heidi Brown, MD. It’s also not a condition that only affects older adults. The reality is that 70% of women with ABL first experience ABL before age 60.3 While it is true the risk for developing ABL increases with age, it is a myth to think ABL only affects the elderly.  

Myth #3: ABL is the result of childbirth and is a women’s health issue

The truth is ABL affects women and men and there are many common conditions affecting both genders associated with ABL. The published research shows the most common causes and risk factors affecting both women and men are chronic IBS, chronic diarrhea, diabetes, obesity, and advancing age.3 It is true that childbirth and menopause are additional risk factors for women. And prostate therapy is a risk factor for men. ABL isn’t just a women’s health issue.

Myth #4: ABL is a disease and requires medical intervention

ABL is not a disease. It is a symptom associated with many common conditions and usually does not require medical intervention to improve symptoms. Talking to your healthcare provider about ABL can help you learn how to improve symptoms. 90% of the time ABL is light to moderate and can be managed with dietary and lifestyle changes. Learning about how ABL affects you and what steps you can take to improve symptoms can help reduce ABL. Less than 10% of the time ABL requires medical intervention. Don’t be afraid to speak up about ABL with your healthcare provider.

Myth #5: There’s nothing you can do about ABL

“Today more than ever, making healthy lifestyle choices are increasingly at the heart of healthy living, and that’s also true for those living well with ABL,” says Kelly Lewis Brezoczky, Founder, Healthy Mature Living Foundation and ABL is a condition that is highly bothersome and its symptoms vary from person to person. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve symptoms. For example, using fiber to help make the stool consistent can be especially important for people with ABL. Reducing caffeine, artificial sweeteners or spicy foods also may help. In addition, pelvic floor exercises such as doing “kegels” or biofeedback can be helpful. “This is a condition where making dietary and lifestyle choices can be empowering. Once women and men start taking steps to manage their symptoms, many will find their overall health and wellbeing improves,” says Ms. Brezoczky.

1Accidental bowel leakage in the mature women’s health study:  prevalence and predictors.  H.W. Brown, S.D. Wexner, M.M. Segall, K.L. Brezoczky, E.S. Lukacz. The International Journal of Clinical Practice.  2012 Nov; 66 (11):  1101-1108

2Fecal Incontinence in US Adults: Epidemiology and Risk Factors. W.E. Whitehead, L. Borrud, P.S. Goode, S. Meikle, E. Mueller, A. Tuteja, et al. Gastroenterology. 2009 August; 137(2): 512-517.e2

3Prevalence and burden of fecal incontinence: A population based study in women A.E. Barucha, A.R. Zinsmeister, G.R. Locke, B.M. Seide, K. McKeon, C.D. Schleck, et al.; Gastroenterology. 2005 July; 129 (1): 42-49

4Quality of life impact in women with accidental bowel leakage.  H.W. Brown, S.D. Wexner, M.M. Segall, K.L. Brezoczky, E.S. Lukacz. The International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2012 Nov; 66 (11): 1101-1108

5Bowel disturbances are the most important risk factors for late onset fecal incontinence: A population-based case-control study in women A.E. Barucha, A.R. Zinsmeister, C.D. Schleck, L.J. Melton.; Gastoenterology. 2010 Nov;(139)5: 1559-66

Some of the information and advice offered in this article are by a non-medical professional. This information is meant to complement, but not replace any advice or information from your healthcare professional. 

Last Updated 1/12/2015

Kelly Lewis Brezoczky is Founder and Executive Director of the Healthy Mature Living Foundation and Follow her on Twitter @kellybrezoczky for insights on living well after 50.
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