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World Continence Week – Good Bowel Habits

Normal bowel action is from 3 times a day to 3 times a week.

Straining to empty your bowels can cause stretch on the connective tissue, muscles and nerves of the pelvic floor. Over time this stretch can lead to:

• Permanent muscle weakness

• Excessive perineal descent (which makes it difficult to fully empty the bowel)

• Prolapse

• May eventually cause loss of bladder or bowel control.

Follow these simple steps to empty your bowel effectively and avoid straining.

1. Ensure adequate fluid intake.

Aim for 1.5 – 2 liters of fluid per day. Do not count caffeine or alcohol.

2. Eat high fibre food.

The fibre in vegetables, salads, fruits and wholegrain breads and cereals helps to keep your bowel motion soft and regular.

Some people require a fibre supplement. Psyllium husks are available from your supermarket or health food store and are a safe and easy first option to try.


3. Defaecation pattern

• First wait until you get a strong urge before you go to the toilet

• Lean forward a little and rest your elbows on your knees.

• Have your knees higher than your hips by lifting your heels or using a footrest.

• Allow abdominals to relax, keep your back straight, lean forward and breathe normally

• Push your lower belly out

• Hold – as you hold this effort, the anus opens and rectal emptying will follow. Pushing occurs at the waist level

• Do not push into your bottom

• Do not strain

• Do pull up with your pelvic floor muscles and anal muscles at the end of toileting


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