It’s more than likely that you even know someone who has accidental bowel leakage (ABL). There are plenty of myths surrounding this condition, but the realities are more important to be aware of.

Myth 1: ABL only affects old people

ABL affects over 30 million women and men. Research studies show 1 in 5 women over the age of 40 experiences ABL—and that 70 percent of them experience it before the age of 60. Men are affected in similar numbers. While it’s true the risk for developing ABL increases with age, the reality is it’s an everyday health issue for millions of active people.

Myth 2: ABL is a normal part of aging

Many common conditions are associated with ABL. The most common risk factors are digestive wellness related health conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), chronic diarrhea and crohn’s and colitis. Diabetes, obesity, childbirth, menopause and prostate therapy are also risk factors. Certain medications and artificial sweeteners and caffeine are also associated with ABL. The reality is there are many conditions that can cause ABL; it’s not just about aging.

Myth 3: There’s nothing you can do about it.

Ninety percent of the time ABL is light to moderate and can be managed with dietary and lifestyle changes. Learning how to use fiber to help improve stool consistency can help ward off ABL. Avoiding triggers and reducing caffeine, artificial sweeteners and spicy foods may also help. Learning how to do kegel exercises which strengthen pelvic floor muscles is also beneficial. When these dietary and lifestyle changes aren’t enough, medical treatments are available. In all cases, talking to your healthcare provider is important.

ABL 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 well-being improves.