Our pelvic floor is not made for western toilets, our caveman ancestors would have squatted in the bush. While the invention of the toilet has made for a much more convenient way to empty our bowels, it may be contributing to some of your toileting woes.
The levator ani muscle is one of the deep pelvic floor muscles that wrap around the back of the bowel. When contracted the muscle shortens and kinks the bowel helping us to keep our bowel movements in.
However, we need to relax this muscle to “unkink” the back passage and let our bowel movements out. When we sit on the toilet with knees at the same height as our hips (or even worse when we hover over the seat) it makes it hard for the pelvic floor to relax enough for easy passage of poo.
This can result in constipation or straining for a lot of people. Chronic straining and constipation can lead to pelvic organ prolapse (by weakening the ligaments and muscles that support these organs)
So what can you do to help?
Every western toilet should come with a footstool.
When you raise your feet up onto a footstool, your knees become raised above your hips. If you then lean forward and rest your elbows on your knees, it allows us to resume a squatting posture which is how our bodies were designed to pass bowel movements.
By adding some relaxed belly breaths (allowing your tummy to soften and bulge as you take breaths in), the pelvic floor to relax even further. This helps the bowel to straighten, allowing gravity to help our poo’s out with little effort from us.
So do yourself a favour and head down to your local Kmart or Target and get yourself a toilet footstool, they normally cost as little as $10 and your bowels (and pelvic organs) will thank you for it.
Away on holidays or in a public loo and don’t have your trusty stool with you?
No worries, just grab a couple of toilet rolls to rest your feet on.
If you are having difficulty emptying your bowels or think your bowel habits may be contributing to your pelvic organ prolapse symptoms, book an assessment with a women’s health-trained physiotherapist for an individualised assessment.