3 Reasons You are Having a Hard Time Pooping

What Really Causes Constipation and How To Fix It

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Constipation is far too common, especially here in the United States. Today it is estimated that 4 million Americans suffer from frequent constipation and it is the most common gastrointestinal (GI) complaint. For women, being pregnant, postpartum and during the luteal phase of your cycle (after ovulation and up to right before period) can all increase the chance you might suffer from constipation due to hormonal changes.  However, like leaking urine, it is common but never considered normal.  

Constipation is Typically Defined As:

  • fewer than three bowel movements a week
  • stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy
  • stools that are difficult or painful to pass
  • a feeling that not all stool has passed

There are multiple factors that contribute but here are 3 reasons you may be having difficulty pooping.

Poor toileting mechanics:

  • With our modern age, our western toilet seat has become higher and higher.  This has no benefit to our ability to have a good bowel movement because it changes the angle between our colon and our rectum. The higher the toilet, the less the angle and the more difficult it is to open our rectum so a bowel movement can slide out.  When we are able to sit in a position that resembles more of a squat (ie. our knees are slightly above our hips and our feet are elevated) our angle increases which helps a muscle that wraps around our rectum relax; then our rectum can contract and open (It’s kind of like unkinking a garden hose).  To try this at home you can place a stool under your feet when sitting on the toilet.  This is also why the owners of squatty potty have made millions!  Not everyone needs a squatty potty but they can be very helpful.  The main thing to remember is make sure you feel 100% relaxed when you are sitting on the toilet.

Inability to relax the pelvic floor: 

  • OK, so now you are sitting on the toilet, you feel relaxed, but something still doesn’t seem right.  Have you tried relaxing your pelvic floor muscles?  Your pelvic floor muscles are at the bottom of your core; they run from your pubic bone and tailbone and between your sit bones and provide support for your rectum, bladder and uterus.  The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that need to relax before a different muscle (called your external anal sphincter) can push a bowel movement out.  If you cannot relax and lengthen your pelvic floor muscles, having a bowel movement is very difficult.

Nutrition and water intake:

  • This might seem like a no brainer but it is so important for creating the best bowel movement we can so it is easier to pass.  Not enough water can cause stools that are hard, lumpy and dry because there is not enough moisture to keep them soft.  Fiber intake is also very important.  Insoluble fiber adds bulk to our bowel movements and can help speed up its time in the digestive track which is especially helpful for constipation.  Soluble fiber is also helpful because it helps our stool hold onto water to contribute to stools that are soft, well formed and easy to pass. Examples of foods high in insoluble fiber include wheat, whole grains, brown rice, broccoli, spinach and zucchini.  Soluble fiber foods include oatmeal, nuts and seeds, apples, berries and psyllium husk. 

We, at Breathe., can help you with all things related to bowel movements, whether it’s constipation or the other side of things, fecal leakage, we can help!  We’d love to hear your poop story…..I promise!