Happy New Year! I’ve been back at the clinic for a week now and have had more than a few patients worried about apparent relapses in a variety of conditions – urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, constipation, fecal incontinence… This is a pattern that I have noticed over the last couple of years. I am here to alleviate their (and your) concerns.
Why your pelvic floor might feel worse after the holidays:
- Your diet
The holidays are a time for enjoying some of our favorite food and drink. Overindulging in higher than normal fatty meals, sweets, candies, processed food, caffeine and alcohol can lead to strain on the pelvic floor. Alcohol acts to suppress the release of anti-diuretic hormone, which is one of the reasons why you may get stronger urges to urinate while drinking. Caffeine and alcohol can also act as bladder irritants to some. Carbonated foods can lead to bloating. Less than stellar diets can cause constipation or diarrhea. All of these can interfere with a (relatively) well-functioning pelvic floor. Straining or clenching the pelvic floor muscles more than usual can exacerbate symptoms that had been previously well controlled
2. Your exercise/activity regime
Has your exercise program gone the way-side over the holidays? Haven’t made it to the gym? Couldn’t fit in your daily walk? Exercise is known to help stimulate the gastro-intestinal tract. Removing your daily constitutional might ruin your other daily constitutional. Constipation, which encourages more straining through the pelvis, can bring on the return of pelvic organ prolapse symptoms and incontinence pretty quickly.
Have you gone the other route? A new year’s resolution have you trying to increase your activity? Decided to jump right in and introduce yourself to exercise with a 10Km run? Jumping jacks? Step-class? You may be trying an activity that your pelvic floor is not (yet!) strong enough to perform.
Changing time zones? Stress associated from all the travel? Shy bowel or bladder? Maybe you don’t have access to your squatty-potty? All of these factors can affect your ability to stick to your normal bathroom routine. When we travel we often ignore or supress an urge to go out of convenience or embarrassment. On the other hand, for some, taking those long car rides and feeling like you have less access to a bathroom can trigger feelings of overactive bladder and worsen your urge to urinate.
4. Your pelvic floor homework
In the rush of the holidays, it is common for patients to tell me that they just don’t have time to do their pelvic floor homework. Kegels, stretches, pelvic floor relaxation exercises – whatever it is, they are often some of the first healthy habits to go.
Don’t fret! Returning to your normal schedule, diet and exercise routines should help alleviate symptoms. Really concerned that there is a problem? Make a call to your trusted pelvic floor physiotherapist to schedule an appointment.
Katie Kelly, Physiotherapist
BSc., MSc. PT