Bowel and Bladder Habits: Let's Talk About It
Yes, you read that headline right: Bowel and Bladder Habits. You might be thinking, why is this topic so important and how is this related to my pelvic health? Well, did you know that how we are peeing or pooping tells a lot about how our body is doing, but especially our pelvic floor?
On average, a person should be peeing 5 to 7 times per day that are 2-4 hours apart, and at night time we shouldn’t be getting up to pee unless you are pregnant or over the age of 65 years old, which should then be 1 to 2 times per night. Our liquid intake is important as well. A person should be consuming about half their body weight in ounces or simply 6-8 cups of water per day.
Two-thirds of our fluid intake should be coming from water. If we consistently consume less fluid or consume bladder irritants, such as coffee, carbonated drinks, and acidic drinks to name a few, the urine in our bladder becomes too concentrated and can cause the muscles in the bladder to spasm, making you feel like you need to go to the bathroom. Over time, frequent trips to the bathroom cause a new habit pattern in which using the bathroom less than 2 hours apart becomes second nature. On the flip side of that, not using the bathroom every 2-4 hours and holding urine can also become a problem. Being aware of our daily habits can help improve the health of our bladder.
Poop. It is the topic no one likes to talk about but yet it is something someone should experience every day. Yes, you heard me right, a person on average should be having a bowel movement 1 to 2 times per day. When we have a bowel movement, the consistency of the stool is just as important. Was the stool hard, soft, or watery?
The Bristol Stool Chart provides a good image of the different consistencies. For a healthy gut on average, we should have a type 4.
Did you have to push or strain to have the bowel movement? When the stool is hard and requires us to push or strain, this puts a lot of pressure on our pelvic floor, and overtime if this becomes chronic in nature, it can start to cause pain to the pelvic floor. Being consistent with our fluid intake and what we eat is vital to keeping our bowel habits consistent and normal.
IS HOW I POOP OR PEE IMPORTANT?
Yes! When we pee and poop, our pelvic floor should be relaxed. A way to help with pelvic floor relaxation while we sit on the toilet is to actually change how we are sitting on the toilet. It isn’t something major, but when we make a slight change we can see a big difference. The rule of thumb is when sitting on the toilet, our knees should be higher than our hips, so putting a box, a stool, or a stack of books underneath our feet will help achieve proper positioning. Squatty Potty, a popular consumer item, does just that.
WHAT DOES PT HAVE TO DO WITH PEE AND POOP?
Pelvic health physical therapy can help when there is dysfunction happening in the pelvic floor. Dysfunction of the pelvic floor can be present with a variety of symptoms, but some of the most basic ones are actions that people are experiencing on a daily basis such as peeing and pooping.
WHEN SHOULD I SEE A PELVIC HEALTH PT?
If you find yourself outside the normal values mentioned above, such as frequent urination, pain and/or straining with a bowel movement, painful urination, etc. these are good indicators that something bigger is going on. Pelvic physical therapy will provide a holistic approach to diving deeper into the "why" of the symptoms. This approach will help you achieve a life without interruptions of dysfunctions in the bathroom.
The first step towards improving your bowel, bladder, and pelvic health can be as easy as a conversation.
Beth Ann Soelberg, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor rehabilitation at Rehab United's Kearny Mesa facility. She received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2016 from Idaho State University. Since graduating, she has continued to pursue her passion in pelvic health through courses focusing on pelvic pain, women's and men's pelvic health, and Applied Functional Science. Beth Ann’s treatment philosophy focuses on pursuing a holistic and patient-centered approach.