Manage Constipation Naturally for Better Pelvic Floor Function
- Written by Nancy Hoi Wong OTD, OTR/L, RYT200
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Constipation and pelvic floor disorders often go hand-in-hand for clients with hypertonic (tight) pelvic floor muscles and with associated symptoms like pelvic pain, pain with sex, and urge incontinence. So, let’s get your constipation in control!
The connection between your bowels and your pelvic floor
If you think about what is housed inside of the pelvic bowl, three important systems have to co-exist and share a limited amount of space:
- Urinary System: the bladder and urethra
- Reproductive Organs: Uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and vaginal canal
- GI System: sigmoid colon, rectum
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
If you are constipated, the sigmoid colon will have to expand to house the extra stool you are storing. This makes the colon take up more space—and take space away from the other systems that need to be housed down there- this can lead to extra pressure on your pelvic floor, low back pain, pelvic pain, among other things. Also, people with constipation tend to strain when they are on the toilet, contributing to issues like pelvic organ prolapse (read more about prolapse in this previous post).
Healthy Habits for Bowel Regularity
- Exercise. Motion is lotion! Approximately 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular activity can help improve motility of intestinal waste.
- Massage your belly. Abdominal lymphatic massage– a self-care technique we teach at the clinic, it is used to decrease the edema and bloat in the belly caused by IBS issues, constipation, loose stools, and pelvic pain.
- Drink water! Your GI system needs water to keep things moving. Drink approximately 64 oz daily.
- Take care of your body tissues. Stretch daily, use a foam roller to release tight spots and mobilize connective tissue, get monthly massages.
Natural Fiber sources to regulate stools
- High Fiber Cereal— In a 2008 study by Shariati, Maceda, and Hale, they found that 1 cup of high fiber cereal daily was enough to help study participants improve their pelvic floor function and bowel regularity.
- Prune Juice—try a brand with pulp. Start drinking 2 oz at night, for 3 nights in a row. If no change in constipation, increase to 4 oz nightly for 3 nights. Max 6 oz.
- “Power Pudding” recipe – 1 c. apple sauce, 1 c. unprocessed “uncooked” wheat bran or oat bran, ¾ c. prune juice. 3 TBS ground flax seed. Begin taking 1-2 TBS each evening with a full glass of water. Increase amount after 3-4 days until you get the desired consistency of stool.
- Green smoothie recipe – 1 ½ c. spinach, kale or dark greens; 1 c almond milk; 3 TBS ground flax seed; 1 scoop protein powder (soy can upset stomachs); 1 banana
- Citrucel-- SmartFiber comes from cellulose, which occurs naturally in plants. Some say that this type of natural fiber can promote regularity without causing bloating, gas and other side effects.
- Benefiber—natural fiber that is tasteless and non-thickening that can be added to foods or drinks to increase your daily fiber intake.
- Psyilium fiber- A popular form of natural fiber that can be added to drinks or recipes to increase fiber intake.
- Note: We do not recommend continued use of any laxative. For chronic constipation, managing with natural fiber supplements and dietary fiber with sufficient water intake is the best option.
- Natural Calm Powder (Magnesium citrate): Magnesium citrate is a saline laxative that is believed to work by drawing fluid into the small intestines. Begin with half a teaspoon daily, and increase to recommendations as stated on the product label. It usually results in a bowel movement within 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Shariati, A., Maceda, J. S., & Hale, D. S. (2008). doi:10.1097/01.aog.0000308660.48204.7
WebMD. Magnesium Citrate: