Appreciate the Poop: 6 Tips for Healthy Bowel MovementsDec 01, 2022
As the holiday seasons arrive into New Year’s resolutions, there is no doubt a lot of turmoil in our routines and an openness to reevaluate what is working for us physically, relationally, socially, etc. Have you considered getting your bowel health in order? I’m sure you’re wondering why I am even bringing this up, but as a pelvic floor physical therapist, this is something I screen in all of my clients because it can tell us the story of not only what is physically implicated in and around pelvis, but it also tells us about our gut health, nervous system and much more!
Having irregular bowel movements (BM) both in type and timing can affect how we absorb nutrients, the pain we experience in and around our pelvis, and the stress and strain we place on our pelvic floor muscles. I wanted to provide some tips to improve the pooping experience and continue progressing toward your health and movement goals.
- Create a routine. No wonder when we travel, our bowels tend to get shy because of our fluid intake, access to bathrooms or lack thereof. However, whether it’s a normal day of the week or travel schedule, seek to set a routine. Choose a time of day to execute and then stick to it. Most people choose first thing in the morning or after lunch. It’s best to schedule around meal times as the gastrocolic reflex helps stimulate BMs. Then try not to be rushed. The more regular you can keep this schedule, the more predictable your poops will be!
- Drink enough water. It is recommended to consume ½ your body weight in ounces of water daily. The majority of my clients have trouble consuming enough water, so find your favorite water bottle, tumbler, straw, whatever you need to do to increase intake. I play a silly game with myself and always take 7 gulps when I drink water. This ensures I can meet my quota for the day and little tiny sips do not do favors for our bladder.
- Consume enough fiber. 25-30 grams a day is the recommended intake. Easy ways to sneak this in throughout the day is eating a serving of fruit or vegetables with every meal. A fiber supplement like Metamucil or adding psyllium husk to your smoothies is another great option. Focusing on this dietary nutrient provides soft bulk for the bowels ensuring comfortable poops!
- Exercise daily. Even 15-30 minutes of aerobic, rhythmic movement helps bowel function. This can also be a part of your routine to help with consistent BMs.
- Have good toilet mechanics. This is the time to not sit upright, but rather lean your elbows on your knees, elevate your feet and relax. Be patient if you’re not ready to go right away and taking deep diaphragmatic breaths actually helps the whole system to have a BM. As you are evacuating stool, take deep breaths into your abdomen and bear down as you exhale. Avoid holding your breath as you push.
- Evaluate your poop. The Bristol stool chart is a helpful tool to compare where your stools are and can help you determine how you need to change your habits in order to achieve the optimal stool! Refer to this and if you notice you are on the constipated side, consider your routines and mechanics. If you’re on the looser side, consider bulking up on fiber and looking at your diet needs.
If one of these sticks out to you more than others, then consider adjusting one thing at a time as this process is a habitual and behavioral activity that responds well to consistency. If you continue to have issues with regulating this on your own, or are experiencing difficulty emptying your bowels, straining or pain with BMs, or having loss of bowel control, a pelvic floor physical therapist such as myself, can evaluate those issues and provide relief. I am helping people overcome their pelvic pain, pelvic heaviness and leaking with exercise and daily life in our Decatur clinic. Call us to get you scheduled or learn more about our services.
Dr. Krystal, PT, DPT, CMTPT, RYT-200
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