The Poop Scoop
Why It’s Important to Talk About Our Bowel Health
We all poop. It may not be a hot topic, but we should all get used to talking about, or at least thinking about our poop a little bit more. It’s a completely normal bodily function, but what is normal when it comes to our bowel health?
Pooping too often or not enough?
It can be normal to have a bowel movement two times a day, and it can be normal to have a bowel movement two times a week. What really matters is the consistency of your stool (poop). In the clinic, we use the Bristol Stool Chart to help us distinguish between constipation and diarrhea, rather than the number of times you go per day or per week. If your stool is hard to pass and is usually formed lumpy, then you may err on the side of constipation. If your stool is watery, loose or soft and floating, you may be closer to diarrhea. Either of these can cause abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and discomfort, all of which pelvic floor physical therapy can address. Even instances of stool leakage may be related to the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to provide control over an urge.
The goal for stool consistency is smooth, sausage or snake like, somewhat soft in nature. This is Type 4 on the Bristol Stool chart.
Causes of constipation or diarrhea?
Below are just a few of the things that can influence our bowel habits to either extreme. STRESS, lack of sleep and lack of physical activity are often big influences for both constipation and diarrhea.
- Low fiber intake (fruits, vegetables and whole grains have fiber)
- Lack of exercise of physical activity
- Some medications
- Bacteria or parasites
- Viruses (flu, norovirus)
- Food intolerances – times when your body has a hard time digesting or processing certain ingredients in food
- Diseases or syndromes: Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome
What can you do?
Body mechanics while using the restroom are a big component of being an efficient pooper. The squatty potty is one of our favorite tools for helping the pelvic floor muscles to relax as your body prepares for a bowel movement.
Avoid breath holding and straining! Often this causes the belly to push out and increases the pressure on the pelvic floor. Our pelvic floor muscles can then react by clenching or tightening which “closes the door” for your poop to exit.
Move a little – rocking your pelvis back and forth a few times, or leaning forward can help to get the pelvic floor to respond by relaxing further. Belly breathing, while focusing on breathing in, filling your low belly first followed by a teeny bit of filling through all sides of your ribs can also help the pelvic floor to relax.
Watch your water intake. 60-100 ounces is typically our gold standard for a happy bladder and happy bowels. When we don’t have adequate water intake, things can move a lot more slowly through the poop chute.
Monitor your fiber intake: 20-35 grams per day is a good range for most adults. Getting fiber from whole food sources such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes is the best for our body and digestion. Add fiber slowly throughout the day, not all at one meal and increase slowly until your body can maintain a good consistency.
Bladder dysfunctions such as incontinence, bladder pain, pelvic pain and bowel changes are often quite linked! Thankfully, a pelvic floor physical therapist can help with conditions such as: constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and even fecal leakage/incontinence.