Saturday, October 18, 2008

Constipation Prevention Tips

Practical Constipation Tips

Getting into a Regular Habit

Most people's bowels respond best to a regular habit. Some of us are too busy to make time for our bowels. Other lives a very irregular lifestyle which makes a habit difficult.

The bowel usually goes to sleep at night and wakes up in the morning. Eating, drinking and moving around all stimulate the bowel. The most likely time for a bowel action is about 30 minutes after the first meal of the day.

This makes it important not to skip breakfast. Try to eat at least something for breakfast and take two warm drinks. Try to make 5-10 minutes of free uninterrupted time about 30 minutes later. This is not always easy if your house is busy in the morning, so you may need to plan ahead or get up a little earlier while you retrain you bowel.

Sitting Properly

The way you sit on the toilet can make a big difference to ease of opening your bowels. The "natural" position (before toilets were invented) is squatting. Countries where squat (hole in the floor) toilets are still common seem to have less problems with constipation.

While actually squatting is not very practical, many people find that adopting a "semi-squat" position helps a lot. One of the footstools that toddlers use to reach a sink is ideal, 8-12 inches high (20-30cm). Position this just in front of your toilet and rest your feet flat on the stool, keeping your feet and knees about one foot (30cm) apart. Lean forwards, resting your elbows on your thighs. Try to relax.


It is important not to hold your breath when trying to open your bowels. Many people are tempted to take a deep breath in and then hold their breath while trying to push. Try to avoid this. Sit on the toilet as described above, relax your shoulders and breathe normally. You may find it easiest to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

If you hold your breath and push this is STRAINING and tends to close your bottom more tightly. Also, if you hold your breath, you are limited in how long your can hold this and when you have to take the pressure off and breathe, you tend to be back to square one.

If you find that you cannot help straining and holding your breath, try breathing out gently, or humming or reciting a nursery rhyme.

Pushing without Straining

The best way to open your bowels is by using your abdominal (stomach) muscles to push. Leaning forward, supporting your elbows on your thighs and breathing gently, relax your shoulders. Make your abdominal muscles bulge outwards to "make your waist wide". Now use these abdominal muscles as a pump to push backwards and downwards into you bottom. Keep up the gentle but firm pressure.

Relaxing the Back Passage

The final part of the jigsaw is to relax the back passage. Many people with constipation actually tighten the back passage when they are trying to open the bowels, instead of relaxing, without realizing what they are doing. This is like squeezing a tube of toothpaste while keeping the lid on!

To locate the muscles around the back passage, firstly squeeze as if you are trying to control wind. Now imagine that the muscle around the anus is a lift. Squeeze to take your lift up to the first floor. Now relax, down to the ground floor, down to the basement, down to the cellar.

Putting it All Together

This is a bit like learning to ride a bike. The above instructions tell you WHAT to do, but do not tell you HOW to do it. It sounds simple, but coordinating everything takes practice, and you have to work it out for yourself. Some people find it easier than others.


Sit properly

Breathe normally

Push from your waist downwards

Relax the back passage

Keep this up for about 5 minutes, unless you have a bowel action sooner. If nothing happens, don't give up. Try again tomorrow. It often takes several weeks of practice until this really starts to work.


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