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Slow Bowel Movement May Be Increasing Fatigue in MS

June 9, 2016

A small study finds that sluggish bowels may be a contributing factor to fatigue in multiple sclerosis patients. Emma Matthews, QN, of Northampton General Hospital in England reported at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers annual meeting that those who reported bowel dysfunction were very likely to also have reported feeling fatigued.

Kathy Franklin, QN, also from Northampton General says that those with MS can sometimes go 10 days or more without having any bowel movement. It takes a longtime to get rid of all of the waste as they generally have very sluggish bowels. She also says that she and her team believe there is a correlation between fatigue and a full bowel. Incontinence and constipation are both often associated with poor mobility because of closely linked nerve transmissions.

50 MS patients completed a questionnaire and worked in focus groups for this study. The Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction (NBD) scale, Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) and Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) were all used to gather data.

The researchers reported that, “23% of participants reported having a "severe" NBD score; of those, more than 80% had an "agree" result.

While in the focus group, the participants spoke about issues related indirectly to bowel movement. They discussed topics like shopping, not going out, having limited mobility and a lack of motivation for socializing with their friends and families.

Good bowel movement for those with MS has been seen to hopefully help with MS fatigue symptoms to make patients’ quality of life better. Some treatments for the slow bowel in MS patients are things like exercise and fiber consumption. If those appear to be ineffective then physicians should move on to prescribing medication.