BPPT Health Tip: Best Positioning Tips for Optimal Bowel Movements

By Sarah Paplanus, DPT, PT

Are you among the 4 million Americans who suffer from constipation? Or the 1 in 5 American adults with Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Do you occasionally experience the pain and itchy feeling associated with hemorrhoids? If so, the Squatty Potty or similar stool may be the perfect addition to your bathroom! Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with any of these conditions, it is important to note that straining or holding your breath to complete a bowel movement is never normal and is usually a sign of dysfunction. Colorectal medical conditions can vary in their cause, in their presentation and in their severity, but your pelvic floor muscles will always be affected.

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Anatomy!

 

Your colon carries waste out of your body, and where the colon meets your rectum is called your anorectal angle. This anorectal angle is an important factor in continence.

Your pelvic floor muscles work together to support the rectum, change the anorectal angle and control opening/closing. One of your pelvic floor muscles (the puborectalis) forms a sling around your rectum and works to maintain the anorectal angle. If that muscle is tight, it can essentially “choke” your rectum and contribute to straining.

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What does squatting do?

Squatting straightens the anorectal angle and helps to relax the puborectalis muscle, which helps to facilitate emptying. It also decreases the amount of pressure in the abdomen, which has been shown to decrease the time and effort needed for defecation. This all helps to reduce excessive pressure and strain on your pelvic floor muscles. In cultures where squatting is still prevalent for defecation, such as parts of Asia and Africa, it has been found that bowel movements tend to be more complete and that there is a decreased incidence of colorectal dysfunctions such as hemorrhoids, constipation and hernias.

Why is straining bad?

A principle of elementary mechanics states that “any system exposed to excessive pressures ultimately sustains injury”.These injuries can be in the form of a hemorrhoid, a hernia, a muscle strain or a chronic pelvic floor dysfunction. Straining also increases your risk of the Valsalva maneuver, which is exhaling against a closed airway. This causes a sudden increase in intra-abdominal pressure which can cause abrupt changes in blood pressure.

Toilet Posture

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Using a squatty potty, stool, or even two yoga blocks can help you assume a “squat” position. Lean forward and rest your elbows on your knees. Take deep breathes in, using your diaphragm. Place your hands on your belly and feel your breathe fill up your abdomen. Keep your mouth open and jaw relaxed!

Other Strategies to Improve Bowel Health

  • Cardiovascular exercise
  • Proper nutrition (see our previous post on fiber!)
  • Make sure you are drinking enough water
  • Relaxation training, diaphragmatic breathing

 

What to do if you are still suffering?

If the above tips are not helping defecate regularly and comfortably, you may be suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur when the muscles of the pelvic floor become too tight, weak, or both to do their job properly. Physical Therapy can help! Visit us at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy to help better your BM’s.

Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) on PBS!

Stress urinary incontinence, or SUI, is a part of the daily lives of so many women, but we rarely see attention given to it in the media so women can learn they’re not alone. Recently, though, PBS aired a half-hour long episode of their show “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind” dedicated entirely to the subject! Entitled “Managing Female Stress Urinary Incontinence,” the episode featured not only doctors discussing the condition, but women talking about their experiences with it. You can watch the entire episode here, on the American Medical Systems website. Watch and tell us what you think and what you learn!

Uppity Science Chick

By Riva Preil

Dear readers, I have found SUCH an incredible and informative website that I simply MUST share it with you.  Not only because the quote on the homepage is fantastic, (“Well behaved women rarely make history,” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich), but because the evidence-based material on the website is amazing.

Kudos to Dr. Kathleen Kendall, PhD, for creating Uppity Science Chick, an educational and helpful website that provides an abundant amount of material for women.  Dr. Kendall discusses a wide array of topics including women’s health, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, Omega-3s, and obesity.  She provides articles and research for the material that she shares which enables readers to make informed health-related decisions.

According to Dr. Kendall, “I have had a lot of people ask me about why I started this site. It all started with some conversations with some male colleagues who implied, among other things, that “girls can’t do science.” Au contraire!  Not only can “girls” do science, but they are setting the world on fire with their discoveries. These studies can change your life.  UppityScienceChick.com offers a forum for sharing current and noteworthy research on the mind-body connection and how it relates to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, trauma and PTSD, depression in new mothers, and breastfeeding.  I hope you find these studies to be helpful in your work–and life.”

Thank you, Dr. Kendall, for sparking our curiosity fires and providing us with the ability to learn and grow.  Not only are you a “girl who does science,” but you are an inspiration who is ROCKING THE RESEARCH.  Please keep the material coming!

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU- please share your thoughts!  What is YOUR favorite article on Uppity Science Chick?