One third of the population experience constipation at some point during their lifetime. Not only is it an irritating condition, but it can also cause an array of issues in the long term.
Constipation is the most common cause of faecal incontinence. Although it can be an unpleasant topic to talk about, it’s important that you learn how constipation can cause pelvic floor problems and how to solve them.
How Can Constipation Damage Your Pelvic Floor?
Like any other muscle, the pelvic floor muscles can be damaged. Chronic constipation can weaken the pelvic floor muscles in men and women.
For women, childbirth is the most common cause of damage due to the strain and stretching that is involved; large babies and the use of forceps can increase the damage. Weak pelvic floor muscles may also lead to prolapse of one or more of the pelvic floor organs; the bladder, womb or bowel.
Constipation is seen in 70% of patients who suffer with rectal prolapse. In light of this, constipation appears to be as important as childbirth in the development of pelvic floor damage. Therefore, it is increasingly important to recognise and treat constipation to reduce the risk of developing a pelvic floor disorder which can lead to incontinence.
Straining on the toilet due to constipation risks stretching and weakening the pelvic floor muscles, which are important for closing off the urinary and anal sphincters. Consequently, constipation increases the risk of urinary incontinence; an enlarged bowel puts pressure on the bladder and reduces its holding capacity, risking accidental urinary leakage.
What Causes Constipation?
Constipation occurs frequently when waste moves too slowly through the digestive tract or if it cannot be eliminated effectively from the rectum, which can cause the stool to become hard and dry.
In general, worry, anxiety, minimal physical exercise, and a low-fiber diet may cause constipation. Some other causes of constipation include:
Blockages in the colon or rectum – These can slow or stop stool movement completely. This can be the fault of an anal fissure, rectal or colon cancer, rectocele, and more.
Nerve issues around the colon and rectum – Nerves that cause the muscles in the colon and rectum to contract and move stool through the intestines can be affected by neurological problems such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.
Muscle difficulty – Chronic constipation may be caused if the pelvic muscles are weakened.
Hormone imbalances – Diseases, conditions and pregnancy that disrupt the balance of hormones can lead to constipation. Constipation in pregnant women is thought to occur due to hormones that relax the intestinal muscle as well as the pressure of the expanding uterus on the intestines. ... Sometimes iron tablets may also contribute to constipation
What are the Symptoms of Constipation?
Signs and symptoms of chronic constipation include:
Passing less than three stools a week
Passing hard or lumpy stools
Straining to pass bowel movements
The feeling of a blockage in your rectum that is preventing bowel movements
Not feeling completely empty after passing stool
Having to use your hands to press on your abdomen to help empty rectum, or using a finger to remove stool from your rectum.
If you’ve experienced two or more of these symptoms for the previous three months, constipation may be considered chronic.
What are the Risk Factors for Constipation?
Factors that can increase your risk of developing constipation include:
Being a woman (Studies don’t show an exact cause of why women are more affected than men, but it’s thought to be because of hormone changes)
Eating a low-fibre diet
Being an older adult
Not exercising regularly
How Can You Prevent Constipation?
Prevention is better than cure. That’s why we have collated these tips for preventing constipation all together.
Top tips for avoiding constipation are:
Do your Kegel exercises – Improving the strength of your pelvic floor muscles can help you to pass stool more easily. If you struggle to perform manual Kegels, try using the Kegel8 Ultra 20 Electronic Pelvic Toner for women or V-For-Men to quickly locate and exercise your pelvic floor muscles.
Use a toilet stool or a turned over bucket – This can help you to lift your knees and change your anorectal angle, making it easier to pass stool and lessens the strain on your pelvic floor muscles.
Embrace your inner animal – Pushing out your belly and sides and saying or mouthing ‘MOOOO’ on the toilet can help relax your vital muscles.
Improve your diet - Dietary guidelines in the UK recommend a daily intake of at least 30 grams of fibre. The majority of the UK falls far short of this target: average daily intake is just 18 grams. Cancer research recently estimated that 28% of bowel cancers in the UK are caused by eating too little fibre. Eating high-fibre foods within your diet (whole grains, fruit and vegetables) can help ease stool movements.
Drink water to help you go – Avoid fruit juices and drink plenty of fluids to help with bowel movements.
Be active – You should get moving to keep things moving.
Don't ignore the urge to pass stool – If you’ve got to go, then you’ve got to go. Don’t hold it.
Take your time - Don’t be afraid to sit for longer on the toilet. There’s a theory that women have more constipation than men because women are always in a rush, whereas men take their time. Maybe sit with a newspaper or iPad to help pass time.
Supplement with magnesium – Magnesium can help to improve your muscles and get things moving.
Indulge in an Epsom salt bath – This can also help your body to absorb magnesium.
If pregnant – Discuss your iron medication with your doctor, you may need to switch to a different type of iron supplement.
You won't believe it but "Mooing" can help with constipation?
Watch physiotherapist, Michelle Kenway, talk about how to empty your bowels effectively and overcome constipation problems.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but remember, you can start preventing pelvic floor disorders right now! Don’t have any regrets; make sure the problems that you experience today don’t continue.
It’s time to change and take control!
Original article: Kegel8 Website