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:
- 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.
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!
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