A few weeks ago I shared some information about constipation, you can read that blog here. Constipation is one of my favorite things to treat in the pelvic health world, because so many people are constipated, but just don’t know what to do about it. Managing constipation can be the cornerstone for managing things like prolapse (in my opinion this is one reason a lot of prolapse surgeries fail) and pelvic floor dysfunction. So today, I thought I would compile some of my favorite tips to help you poop better.
If you are having a hard time pooping or feel like you need to strain, sometimes changing up your toilet mechanics can make a world of a difference. I know this is something that surprises a lot of people, but there is actually a good way to sit and poop on the toilet. Here are my four favorite poop positions:
Feet on a stool:
Get a stool under your feet to help get your knees above your hips. This helps your pelvic floor to relax around your rectum and makes it easier for poop to get out. Since most toilets are designed for your feet to be flat on the ground, the pelvic floor is unable to relax fully around the rectum, and if your poop is hard, this makes it extra difficult to empty. Any stool will do but Squatty Potty is my favorite, you can check out their website here.
Blow into a fist:
Breathe out gently (like you are blowing out birthday candles) into a fist when you are pooping to help reduce straining and breath holding. It is really important to reduce the force and strain required to push when you are going to the bathroom. If you are straining really hard, this can cause increased tightness in your pelvic floor or can lead to things like haemorrhoids.
Twist to the right:
Gently twist your upper body to the right (extra bonus if your feet are on a stool). This can help to create space for the descending colon on your left side so poop can move along a little bit easier.
Lean forward & Relax your belly:
Leaning forward with your elbows on your thighs and relaxing your belly can also help you poop. If your belly is tense this can sometimes make it harder for poop to get out. If you are sucking in your belly to push, this leaves less space for your colon to relax and it can create unnecessary pressure in your pelvic floor. Bonus if you can have your feet on a stool AND breathe into your fist while doing this.
Eat lots of fiber:
Fiber get help keep those bowels moving. There are two types of fiber- soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre: this absorbs water and turns into a gel like consistency to help soften stool and make it easier to pass. This is very important for combating constipation! Some examples of soluble fibre include; barley, oats, strawberries, bran, broccoli. Insoluble fibre: this fibre is insoluble in water, and it makes your stool looser and more fibrous (bulkier) which helps poop stay together. It is important to consume insoluble fibre in moderation. Some example of this type of fibre include; spinach, raspberries, beans and whole grains. One important thing to consider when adding fiber is adding it slowly into your diet. If you do not eat a lot of fiber and add it too quickly, you will overtax your system which may make you bloated and gassy. You should aim to eat 25-35 grams of fiber per day.
Your poop needs water to be formed and move well through your colon. Your poop needs water to help it stay soft and move easily along the colon. If you aren’t drinking enough water and are dehydrated, your body will draw water from your poop, which makes it hard and therefore harder to move. You should aim to drink about ½ oz of water per pound of body weight per day (more if you are exercising intensely or body feeding).
Walking everyday can help keep your bowels moving well. Exercise in general is really important for bowel health, but for some reason I find walking seems to be the best. Your poop is propelled along your colon from smooth muscle contractions inside the colon (this is why you shouldn’t have to strain or push to poop.. ever!). Your colon has three parts, the ascending colon (poop has to go up) , the transverse colon (poop comes across) and then the descending colon (poop goes down). Since poop has to go up the ascending colon and across the transverse colon before it can come down, those muscle contractions are important to keep poop moving. Exercise enhances the smooth muscle contraction of the colon, so if you struggle with constipation, taking a daily walk can make a huge difference. Ideally, you should aim for about 30 minutes/day.
Your body has this amazing reflex called the gastrocolic reflex. This reflex works by stimulating your body to empty your colon as your stomach fills with food. This is why it is common to feel the urge to poop about 30 minutes after a large meal. When your stomach stretches and fills with food, your brain sends a signal to the colon to increase motility (emptying) to make room for the new food in the stomach. If you skip breakfast, or you graze on your food all day, this reflex gets missed and your colon may not empty properly. That allows poop to build up in the colon and can lead to constipation.
There are many different factors that can contribute to constipation, and it is important to get an assessment with either a pelvic physiotherapist and/or a dietician/naturopath to discover the root of the problem. However, if you are constipated, you can try some of these lifestyle factors to improve or eliminate your concerns! If you tried them and they helped, feel free to reach out to me here and let me know that it worked!