Well and Good | Your Pelvic Floor Can Be a Secret Weapon Against Constipation—Here’s Why
- Written by Heather Jeffcoat, DPT
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Heather Jeffcoat, DPT
Looking for a Secret Weapon Against Constipation?
Look to Your Pelvic Floor.
Constipation can be physically uncomfortable, but it can also be downright frustrating. Whether factors like dietary habits, dehydration, or stress trigger your constipation, it can be tempting to fight it by forcing a bowel movement. Straining, however, isn't a great idea. It's not super effective, and it can increase your risk of anal fissures and prolapse.
Instead, a key to relieving constipation might actually involve relaxing your pelvic floor.
For the uninitiated, your pelvic floor is a hammock-like group of muscles resting in your pelvis that support your organs and control how and when you go to the restroom, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your pelvic floor muscles need to relax and release to expel poop, says Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, a pelvic floor therapist and Femina PT. Relaxation allows the anal sphincter muscle to open, so you're able to have a bowel movement.
Yes, straining and squeezing the muscles you use for the bathroom (like the sphincter, lower diaphragm, and core) can sometimes help get things moving, but it can also make you tighten your muscles, which in turn makes it harder to pass stool, Dr. Jeffcoat says. So, to help you relax your pelvic floor, Dr. Jeffcoat offers the following suggestions:
1. Practice deep breathing before, during, and after
Deep breathing is one of the primary exercises Dr. Jeffcoat recommends if you're sitting on the toilet with no luck. To start: Inhale slowly and feel your rib cage expand, then gently exhale, Dr. Jeffcoat says.
Repeat this a few times; with each breath, think about inhaling all the way down into your pelvic floor. Both your diaphragm and your pelvic floor should drop and lengthen as you inhale."
Dr. Jeffcoat recommends you start doing this before you're in the bathroom; stage fright is a real thing. Continue breathing when you're in the bathroom, but she adds that if you don't go within 5 minutes, it's a good idea to try again later.
2. Try not to sit on the toilet for too long
It can be upsetting when time passes, and you're just not going. Instead of sitting there, grab some water, eat fiber-rich food, and try gentle movement like walking before attempting to go again. If you're dealing with frequent consipation, Dr. Jeffocat recommends meeting with a nutritionist or dietician to find a diet that alleviates your symptoms.
For more tips on how your pelvic floor is your secret weapon against constipation, click here to continue to the full article.
** This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. **