Bowel Function, Taboos, and Stigma

How the concepts of stigma and taboos affect bowel function is the focus of a recent article by Chelvanayagam, a lecturer in mental health in England. The author establishes that previously taboo subjects are becoming less hidden in the media, such as sexual function or urinary incontinence, but that in the UK, bowel function is still considered taboo. When people are not given language and social permission to discuss health concerns, conditions go underreported or unrecognized and under treated.

The author points out that patients with bowel dysfunction such as irritable bowel disease, fecal incontinence, and stomas feel stigmatized and are hesitant to discuss concerns with heath care providers or loved ones. The social implications of bowel disorders can lead to socially isolating behaviors including difficulty going out to eat, participating in physical activities, or taking sick leave from work.

Because pelvic rehabilitation providers discuss intimate issues including bowel function with patients, communication skills are very important in order to allow the patient to feel comfortable about the topic. Both verbal and non-verbal techniques will be observed and responded to by the patient. Various stigma-reducing strategies are described in the article. At the interpersonal level, cognitive-behavioral and empowerment strategies are recommended, and at the community level, education and advocacy are listed. Each of these strategies are ones that the pelvic rehabilitation provider is capable of providing.

If you have been wanting to learn more about bowel dysfunction and pelvic rehabilitation, the Institute added to our offeringsa bowel course that is next offered in June in Minneapolis, and November in Los Angeles area.

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