STOP DOING KEGELS.

This week I’m bringing you a very important post. We’re going to be talking about pelvic floor dysfunction and the part it could be playing in your IBS-C, specifically.

Here I’m mainly talking to the ladies. We have a big problem with women’s posture in our society. It’s deemed correct to stand tall, chest out, stomach pulled in and bum tucked. Even if none of us remember being taught this as such, a lot of us are guilty of positioning our bodies in this way without even thinking. This isn’t good – it has the capacity to seriously mess with your pelvic floor.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the pelvic floor is the muscles, the ligaments and the connective tissue in the ‘floor’ of your pelvis. Guess what these muscles are responsible for? They support your downstairs organs! That’s your bowel, your bladder and, ladies, your uterus and vagina. As IBS sufferers, we need to know about these muscles and ensure they’re functioning properly as if not, this could be a big contributor to your IBS related symptoms.

We’ve all been told to do kegels for one reason or another. I read the first instruction to adopt these exercises in a teen magazine when I was about 14 (which awful in itself – but that’s a different battle altogether). I was told more explicitly about the importance of kegels when I took my first pilates class, age 17. It seemed the entire practice of pilates centred around ‘activating the core’ – which begins by pulling up on the pelvic floor and maintaining this at about 30% (at least the way I was taught, anyway). When I become pregnant, I will be told again I’m sure, of the importance of pelvic floor exercises to strengthen those down-there muscles. It’s absolutely true of course that you need strong pelvic floor muscles when you’re pregnant and indeed in all stages of life.  It’s just that tight, toned muscles can often be confused with strong ones.

Tight muscles doesn’t necessarily mean strong muscles.

Picture the pelvic floor muscles as a perfect tightrope; running from below your belly button to your tailbone. It has a little elastic to it, and all your lovely organs are arranged on this perfectly.  When you pull up on your pelvic floor repeatedly (as in kegels) and tuck your bum in as part of  this posture many women have adopted habitually, over time this tightrope is pushed inward from both sides, drawing tighter and tighter, creating slack in the middle.  Instead of being a strong, supportive tightrope with a healthy amount of give, the pelvic floor becomes more like a hammock and is in a state of dysfunction. Combine this with weak glutes that can’t support the back of your pelvis, and you’re even more susceptible to associated symptoms, which can be:

  • bloating
  • constipation
  • urinary symptoms including: frequency, hesitancy, urgency, dysuria and bladder pain
  • pelvic pain
  • lower back pain or pain in the thighs and groin
  • pain during sex / vulvodynia

Here’s a baby donkey in a hammock to make this all a little less distressing.

donkey hammock

hammocks aren’t always bad

 

For anyone who suffers from IBS-C, like me, I’d urge you to consider your pelvic posture. Do you tense up and tuck your bottom in when you stand, or is your tightrope a thing of beauty? It doesn’t matter what headway you might be making on the low FODMAP diet – if a pelvic floor disorder is causing your symptoms, nothing will change until your muscles are supporting your organs in the right way. The steps below, more than anything else, have helped cure my IBS.

Step 1: listen to katy

Watch Katy Bowman speak on the subject in this short video. She explains it far better than me and is an expert on the subject. She includes some exercises here on how you can lengthen those pelvic floor muscles.

STEP 2: see your doctor

Although this might lead you to seek a more specialist opinion down the line, you should see your GP as soon as possible if you have any of the above symptoms, or if you think you might have a pelvic floor disorder.

step 3: stop doing kegels

Stop it. Today. Unless your pelvic floor muscles are in great shape, these will not help you – they will just shorten the muscles further!

Stop the kegels

Stop the kegels.

Step 4: squat

In addition to those lengthening exercises Katy Bowman shows us, you need to start squatting. Squats will strengthen your glutes, supporting the back of your pelvis (helping it to stay untucked) and help lengthen those tight pelvic floor muscles in the process, creating proper support and strength for your organs where it’s needed.

step 5: and remember …

TIGHT MUSCLES DO NOT EQUAL STRONG MUSCLES.

Read some more helpful insights from Katy Bowman, queen of perfect alignment, here:

– ‘Real pelvic floor advice for women‘ – particularly helpful advice for those in pregnancy

– ‘1, 2, 3, 4. We like our pelvic floor‘ – a very good illustration of the problem with kegels and the butt tuck when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction

 

 

My favourite low FODMAP pasta sauce

 

My favourite low FODMAP pasta sauce

Today I’m sharing my favourite low FODMAP pasta sauce. This really is a mid-week marvel; something you can knock up in ten minutes if you have to – but I like to let the sauce reduce for a good twenty minutes at least, to let all of the flavours really come through.

It doesn’t need much introduction … it’s a tomato pasta sauce with butterbeans, kale and anchovy – if you don’t like anchovies of course you can leave them out, or swap in with some quality pancetta. For those who can’t tolerate the GOS found in the butterbeans, you can leave these out – for me they add more texture than they do flavour. This sauce would be delicious with onion (which I can’t eat, but please do add at the start if you can), and garlic too, which I added here via infused oil, of course.

you will need (makes 2-3 portions)

a good lug of garlic oil
3 x bay leaves
1 x tin of anchovies in olive oil (if you tolerate garlic, buy the ones in herbs and garlic for a bit of extra flavour)
1 x can of butterbeans
3 x big handfuls of kale
1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
a good quality parmesan cheese

… and pasta of course – be it gluten free, wholegrain, or the delicious regular kind that I now feel blessed to be eating again. While we’re on the topic, I found a VERY delicious gluten free pasta last month – my favourite yet. You can buy it from some supermarkets in the UK, or from Dove’s Farm directly. Don’t be put off if you don’t like wholegrain pasta, I don’t either. I can vouch that this silky, brown rice fusilli doesn’t taste grainy, or dull. I’d actually opt for it over the regular kind, in many instances – like when paired with this sauce.

method:

Heat the garlic oil in a pan. If you laugh in the face of fructans, you can add garlic and onion here and fry until soft and golden. I can tolerate garlic, and not onions (more on the science behind this soon) – so I just grated a clove into some regular olive oil. Roughly crush the bay leaves in your hand and add to the pan, stirring constantly.

Chop the anchovies really roughly (they’re just going to melt away into the sauce) and add to the pan. Fry lightly for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, along with the drained butterbeans and stir through. If you have some to hand, you can add some chicken stock here, to add a bit more depth to the sauce.

Stir well and turn down to a low heat. Simmer for around 15 minutes, until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Put your pasta on to boil. At this point you can add the kale, stirring through until it goes limp. Season the sauce well, once it has thickened to your liking.

Once your pasta is cooked, drain all but a tablespoon of water from the pan, then coat the pasta with a good olive oil and stir through. Add half the sauce to the pasta (if you’re serving just yourself) and coat with lashings of parmesan cheese.

If you manage to keep hold of it, the remaining portion(s) make a very tasty lunchbox treat, which you can add to pasta again, giant couscous, extra helpings of kale… it’s pretty versatile. Tasty, too.