As a pelvic health physiotherapist, I assess and treat all types of issues below the belt including incontinence, pain, prolapse, as well as, digestion and elimination. I talk about poop more than most 7 year olds! Being regular is a sign that things are working as they should, but sometimes that is easier said than done. Many people find their systems out of whack during certain times, like after the holiday season or on vacation. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so I wanted to share 3 tips I give my clients to help keep things running smoothly. Why not try something to make yourself feel good during these gloomy days.
Water is important for our digestion. The food we eat requires water to help it move along. When we are dehydrated, our large intestines remove water from our the waste products of our food which makes our stool dry and hard to pass, leading to constipation. There are many recommendations for water consumption, but a good guideline is the colour of your urine, it should be pale lemonade colour (not clear and colourless), and you should be peeing 5-8 times in 24 hours. Most fluids count towards our water consumption, but caffeine (even decaf) as well as alcohol has the opposite effect. Try drinking an extra glass of water for every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage you consume. Being well hydrated won’t cure constipation, but it does help prevent it.
We've heard it almost everywhere, eat more fibre. Fibre adds bulk to our stool and makes it easier to pass. There are two kinds of fibre; soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre is fibre that binds with water and forms a gel that slows down your digestion (think of what happens to oatmeal in water). Insoluble fibre doesn’t absorb water but adds bulk to your stool (think what happens when you add water to kale). We need both types to keep things moving smoothly. Try starting your day with a high fibre breakfast: high fibre cereal with berries, ground flaxseed in your eggs, chia seeds in your smoothie. Snacking on whole fruit, hummus and veggies or even nuts and seeds will boost your fibre intake.
Exercise is one of the first things people drop when things get busy, but exercise is essential for regular bowel movements. Exercising speeds up our breathing and heart rate which stimulates our intestinal muscles to contract. This reduces the time it takes for food to move through our intestines, which also reduces the amount of water that can be drawn from our stools (see Stay Hydrated, above) Any activity is helpful for preventing constipation, even a 15 minute walk, so keep moving, to keep things moving!
Don’t ignore the urge
My final piece of advice… don’t ignore the urge to go! Our poop is like a polite English butler, that gently lets you know he wants your attention. But if ignored, he retreats and may approach you again, but likely will just stay away. Don’t ignore him!
Remember to live balanced, live well and be you at your PRIME
Sheela Zelmer B.Sc.P.T., M.C.P.A.
Pelvic Health Physiotherapis