Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint — about 4 million Americans experience constipation and make 2.5 million physician visits a year to get help for the problem.
In Managing Constipation Part 1, we talked about the causes and indicators of constipation. Check that out here.
In today’s post we are going to talk about how we treat constipation.
Treatment Options for Constipation
1. Fiber Supplementation
Most people in Western Society in the US especially, need more fiber in our diet. The recommendation is typically 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Most Americans are getting maybe 10 to 15 grams per day. Fiber from natural food sources, such as fruits and veggies is best, but fiber supplements can work as well.
Make sure though that you want to increase your fiber slowly. If you go from very little fiber to a lot of fiber, you can experience a lot of gas and bloating. Obviously that doesn’t feel good, especially if we are already backed up. Make sure you do it very slowly.
Here is a good recipe to help you get more fiber.
High Fiber Jam Recipe
1 cup of applesauce,
1 cup of unprocessed wheat bran or oat bran.
3/4 cups of prune juice.
Mix these all together and store int he fridge. Begin by taking one to two tablespoons each evening, with a glass of water. IF you don’t notice a change over a few days then you can increased amount to 3-4 tablespoons.
2. Increase water intake
If you are increasing your fiber intake, you make sure you’re getting enough water per day. For most people, six to eight cups of fluid a day is good. We’re not chugging water, but we’re slowly taking in little amounts at a time. We usually recommend about four to six ounces every hour as you’re slowly sipping, so you’re getting good absorption there.
3. Use your body’s natural emptying reflex
Keep in mind that your body has a natural emptying reflex. About a half hour after we eat a meal or drink something, we have a reflex that occurs to increase motility or movement of the stool down to the rectum. This is usually particularly strong in the morning. Try to plan time into your morning to get up, move around some, eat/drink something, then potentially have a bowel movement.
4. Proper Toilet Positioning
It’s also really important to properly position yourself on the toilet to allow for full relaxation of your pelvic floor muscles.
It’s important to get your feet supported on either a step stool or maybe a squatty potty. This puts your knees and your hips in more flexion. If you get your knees above your hip level, it actually straightens out your puborectal angle so it’s easier for us to empty our rectum. Something to consider is leaning forward, supporting your elbows on your knees, and then taking some deep breaths, allowing time to actually rest and let yourself go to the bathroom, instead of trying to to strain.
5. Exercise to get things moving
Exercising on a regular basis is very helpful. Increasing your movement throughout the day can really help get your bowels moving more.
6. Eat Regular Meals
Eat regular meals. Try not to skip any meals. Skipping meals can definitely affect how things move through the digestive system.
7. Work with a Pelvic Physical Therapist
If you are dealing with constipation, a pelvic physical therapist can help to identify any musculoskeletal causes for your constipation. Often times, constipation can result from pelvic floor muscles not relaxing and working the right way, or a person having poor pushing technique. A pelvic PT will be able to identify what is not working and get you moving in the right direction.
If you or someone you know are dealing with constipation, we hope that you have found the information in our Managing Constipation series helpful. If you want to go back and check out Part 1, you can click here to do so.
If you want more information on how pelvic physical therapy can help you overcome your constipation, sign up for one of our FREE DISCOVERY SESSIONS, to talk with one of our specialized therapists and get your questions answered.