I recently participated in continuing education for topics surrounding bowel dysfunction and male pelvic floor conditions. During the course, one of the topics discussed was the “Sampling Response.” This response involves the process of experiencing an urge to have a bowel movement or pass gas and then deciding when the appropriate time is to evacuate these contents. Since learning about the Sampling Response I have discussed it with some of my patients who experience variations in bowel dysfunction and they reported to me after how much sense this Sampling Response makes and how it explains many of their symptoms.
So what is the Sampling Response? There is a point where your rectal canal meets your anal canal. At this junction numerous amounts of sensory fibers are stimulated that communicate different messages to your brain. As your rectum fills with gas or feces it sends a “sample” into this junction and your sensors relay a message to your brain telling you if the sample is air or stool and if you are ready to evacuate them. You then make the decision to evacuate or hold these contents. As this sampling process occurs, the external anal sphincter is the only thing preventing this sample from exiting the body. Problems with the bowels can occur when your sensors are diminished making it harder for your body to identify the substance in the sample and/or when your external sphincter is unable to hold in the sample response and you leak feces.
Fecal incontinence can happen for many reasons with dysfunction of the Sampling Response being one of them. If you or someone you know has difficulty controlling their bowels, a pelvic floor physical therapist may be able to help you regain control and restore your quality of life.
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