It’s something we don’t pay attention to unless there is a problem - but our bowel habits can play an important role in the development of constipation. Constipation is when you need to push or strain, hard or lumpy poo, or take longer than a few minutes to get it out. It can be described as less than 2 bowel movements a week, but did you know you can still be constipated even if you go daily but need to strain passing hard stools or not feeling empty after? Constipation can occur at any age affecting females slightly more than males and will not get better by itself.
Untreated constipation can lead to anal fissures (paper cuts of the anus, ouch), haemorrhoids, rectal prolapse (the rectum decides to live on the outside), bladder issues such as urgency or increase urinary incontinence. Diet, dehydration, medication, aging, lack of exercise, pregnancy or ignoring the urge to go can cause a backup of chocolate logs, and I’m not talking about the yummy xmas ones! Seeking professional help will find the cause of your symptoms, most often successfully treated with lifestyle modifications to free those chocolate hostages. Make sure you promptly see the G.P if you notice blood in your poo.
Normal bowel movements can be ‘three times a day to once every third day’. So, don’t stress if you’re not a one poo a day person, but you should know what your bowel routine is. Bowels can be shy creatures that love a routine, notice when you go on holidays? They often decide to as well.
If struggling to establish a bowel routine
· Listen to and go on the urge, ignoring it can make it quieter over time
· 20 minutes after breakfast or a coffee sit on the toilet
· Drink enough water (30mls x body weight (kg))
· Massage the stomach from right to left
· 2 kiwi fruits a day have been shown to help keep stool soft
· Regular exercise
Another way to help with constipation is to improve how you sit on the toilet! Researchers have kindly gone to the trouble, trialling and testing different positions (I’m sure your glad you weren’t part of those studies). They found there is an optimal position on the toilet that helps relax the pelvic floor muscles and ‘unkink’ the anus to make sure all poo has passed, and all you need is a foot stool and a little bit of self – exploring!
The how to
1, Knees higher than your hips (insert footstool or for those waiting to purchase, 1 or 2 toilet rolls under each foot can do the job).
2, Relax your tummy and let your waist widen. This allows your pelvic floor muscles to relax and lengthen.
3, Explore - lean forward from the hips, with your hands or elbows resting on your lap. However, some women find leaning backwards is better especially if diagnosed with a posterior wall prolapse / rectocele.
4, Breath and keep your mouth open, making a noise like ‘mooooo’ or pretending to blow through a straw (quietly, or your partner like mine might start to think you’re going mad)
5, Wipe and give the next person you see a high five (the latter is optional, not the wiping - from front to back please)
I recommend this toilet routine to prevent constipation from developing. The next time you sit on the porceline throne for a poo, have a go and let me know how you get on (on second thoughts, maybe just tell your partner)
Too poo or not to poo…..YES always