The Secret to Easing Constipation

Did you know that nearly 20 percent of people suffer from constipation? Research shows that as women age, they make up a greater percent of those suffering. Did you also know that you can have a bowel movement on a regular basis – even every day – and still be constipated? 

So, what exactly is constipation? Constipation is a condition in which one has difficulty emptying their bowels, usually resulting in a hardened stool or incomplete emptying. Functional constipation occurs when one has a successful bowel movement but does not feel as if they have completely emptied their bowels. Although pharmacological management can sometimes help, many are discovering more natural ways to help with these issues. Here are some suggestions. 

Up Your Fluid Intake
How much fluid do you consume in a day? Take half of your body weight in pounds and that is how many ounces of fluid you should drink in a day. Unfortunately, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages do not count, and in fact, they take away from your overall fluid volume because they are diuretics. Enough fluid is needed to help bulk and produce fluffy stool and to help stretch your rectum to feel the urge to go. You also need enough water to bind with the fiber in your diet to decrease transit time in your colon. 

Bring on the Fiber
Speaking of fiber, the average women should ingest around 25 grams of fiber each day. Unfortunately, the average American eating the standard American diet consumes much less – often closer to 7-10 grams per day. The type of fiber you consume is important, too. You need a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can be found in some fruits, such as apples and citrus, vegetables such as carrots, beans, and peas, or some cereals, including oats. Insoluble fiber can be found in whole grain products, nuts, dried beans, skins of fruits or vegetables, potatoes and cauliflower. It is important to start adding fiber into your diet slowly, meaning about 3 grams per day, each week. Adding too much fiber at once can cause uncomfortable sides effects such as bloating, abdominal cramps, or gas. You may need to try different types of fiber as every person responds differently to fermentation of fiber. It is best to eat a wide variety of fiber-rich foods.

Get Moving
Changing your diet can be extremely helpful, but the truth is that sedentary people are more likely to complain of constipation. It has been shown that moderate aerobic exercise, core strength, and good abdominal control can accelerate bowel transit time.

Try Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
If the above changes are not enough to help you alleviate your constipation, pelvic floor physical therapy can help. During your pelvic floor physical therapy session, in addition to specific, personalized dietary recommendations, we review proper toileting posture, proper breathing, and teach you techniques to relax the pelvic floor muscles around your anus.

Remember, you should not have to strain to have a bowel movement. Straining causes the anus to close, making it harder to have a bowel movement. It should be an easy process where you have an urge, you sit down, and you go. This should result in a satisfying, long sausage-like stool with a complete sense of emptying. If you are not experiencing this, we can help you at ITR Physical Therapy, where we specialize in helping women (men and children) with all types of bowel, bladder, and pelvic floor muscular dysfunctions.

For more information, visit ITRphysicaltherapy.com.

Jennifer Chu
Jennifer Chu, MS, PT, WCS is one of the country’s first Board Certified Women’s Health Specialists. She has been a physical therapist since 1997 when she started her career working with musculoskeletal injuries in an outpatient orthopedic clinic. It was here that Jennifer began her specialty in women’s health. In 2001 she opened ITR Physical Therapy in order to create an environment where patients would receive the individualized, quality and manual care that she believes each patient deserves. Jennifer has spoken nationally at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition and has sat on the Board of Directors as the Director of Communication for the APTA’s Section on Women’s Health. She has participated in clinical research regarding myofascial soft tissue release techniques for painful bladder syndrome and painful C section scars. She is committed to teaching and empowering women and men with pelvic floor dysfunctions how to help themselves. When not working, Jennifer treasures being the mother of two amazing girls, practicing yoga, meditation and spending time with her friends and family.