Constipated? Try Changing How You Poop!
Constipation can be painful for many people, but if you have endometriosis, it is like a double whammy. Hormonal fluctuations can create periods of diarrhea and then bam- constipation. As a pelvic health PT, I try to encourage good bowel emptying positions, no matter if things are flowing smoothly, too rapidly, or barely at all- the dreaded constipation. Pooping regularly with endo is so important for ridding the body of excess estrogen. So, let’s dive into how to position ourselves to poop correctly.
Many people believe that straining and pushing is normal for having a bowel movement. If this is you - please stop! By straining and pushing, you can, in some cases, actually cause your pelvic floor muscles to contract, which can tighten the anal muscles and create more problems. Vicious cycle. A quick tip to correct this mistake would be to check your belly... If you are pulling your belly muscles in to “strain”, then you are most likely tightening up down below too.
Key points for pooping
Use a step stool. Get your knees up higher than your hips and keep your knees separated mimicking a "squat" position. This actually allows the pelvic floor muscles to release and lengthen, opening the anal canal for improved ease. Think about squatting outside. This is actually the way we all used to poop prior to the invention of the toilet.
Again, don’t strain. Instead allow your belly to balloon open and feel your pelvic floor muscles drop or lengthen. You can try a quick trick of blowing out gently as if blowing out a candle. See if this helps you to feel the opening sensation.
Try to have your bowel movements at the same time every day. Many people will have the most success in the morning, maybe after hot tea or hot coffee.
Don’t rush out of the bathroom. if you hang out for a few minutes, you may actually have some more success. Plan on about 5-10 minutes of relaxing, so grab a book or your cell phone!
Get moving to get moving!
Some yoga-based stretches may also help get things moving. Any type of exercise or movement can really help. Movement actually helps facilitate colonic movement- or the contractions of your intestines move the stool through.
Gentle rotation- spinal twist
The way to really help constipation is to breathe deeply into your belly in each stretch. Breathe into your belly 3-4 times, then switch sides. Do 3-4 on each side.
Really focus on releasing the belly in the cow portion. Do 3-4 deep belly breaths then move into cat. Pull your belly button into your spine for the cat part. Count to 3. Do 5-10 repetitions.
Try a little self-massage too!
Another way to get your abdomen moving is to do self-abdominal massage. Try some heat over your belly for 10 minutes or a warm bath. You will want to gently massage along your intestines in the direction that the stool moves. Using small gentle circles or gentle sweeping movements, massage up on the right side of your belly, across the top under your rib cage, and down on the left side. Do this several times. Go slowly and without causing any pain or discomfort. Ideally, do this at night before bed and try to do some deep breathing at the same time, or right after.
What’s a normal frequency?
Normal frequency of bowel movements is 3x/ day to 3x/ week. Truthfully, I would rather have you going 3x/day versus 3x/ week. Daily is ideal with the occasional missed day due to stress or traveling. Paying attention and making modifications as necessary to encourage healthy BMs is the key to success!
Do you know someone that has made a difference with endometriosis advocacy?