Caring for Your BodyPost Partum Care

A sphincter says what…?!

Did you ever watch Wayne’s World?? If not, you really need to, or we can’t be friends!

If the sphincter reference of the title went right over the top of your head, because you maybe lived in a cave for the duration of your childhood/teen years, then you’ll be super pleased to know that I’m here to talk about actual sphincters instead of Wayne’s World.

Have you heard of the term “anorectal angle”? It refers to the angle at which your rectum and anal canal are held at and this is controlled by the anterior (forward) pull of the puborectalis sling at the anorectal junction – say what?! Let me show you with this stupendous illustration I prepared with my very own hands:

Illustration showing the puborectalis sling pulling the rectum forwards to create the sharp bend at the anorectal junction.

 

In day to day life, if your puborectalis sling (a muscle) didn’t pull correctly, to create the sharp bend in your anal canal, you would lose continence i.e. poop yourself. If you’re not sure about where that muscle is, you’ll be able to associate a feeling with the function of that sling, because you must mindfully relax it in order to poop.

So, why am I telling you about anorectal angles, slings, continence and poop? Well, it occurred to me that most women (and men too) won’t really have ever been told how to poo correctly. The use of the western style of sitting toilet means that we have to work much harder to pass poop than those that traditionally do it in a squatted position. Couple that with the habit of sitting hunched over whilst reading a phone/book/newspaper/shampoo bottle (we’ve all done it!), you are reducing the angle of your anal canal even further. The sharper and smaller the angle, the more difficult it is to pass stools and the more inclined you are to push or force it out.

Whilst you are in the motion of pooping (or defecation, if you’re fancy), you mindfully allow pelvic diaphragm muscles relax, which makes the puborectalis sling also relax. This relaxation causes the sharp bend between the rectum and anus to straighten, making the exit of faeces substantially easier. Think about a garden hose – the water doesn’t come out if there is a tight bend in the tube. This relaxation and straightening can be further improved by squatting in a particular position.

Whilst everyone can benefit from learning how to master the perfect poop exit, this is particularly useful for women. As women, our pelvic floors take a battering and if there is anything we can do to relieve any pressure or force placed on them, then take that advice and treat it like a golden egg.

If you happen to be pregnant, have ever been pregnant (remember that very scary first poo after giving birth???), or you are experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction (urinary incontinence, feeling of floor weakness, pain during sex, difficulty emptying bladder or bowels, prolapse), or even if you have no current issues or indications… in fact, if you are a woman of any life stage, this golden egg is for you.

Reducing your anorectal angle will save you from the strain.

So, how do you go about making the bend less of a bend? The answer is in mimicking a squat-like position whilst on the toilet. I’m not abut to tell you to dig a hole for you to squat over, nor am I going to suggest that you should balance precariously on the edge of the toilet seat. All you need to do to find that perfect angle, is to raise your feet by 6 or 7inches/15-18cm – ta dah, golden egg!

You won’t be able to do this by simply lifting and holding your feet, I mean, that will cause a whole different type of intra-abdominal pressure – not good. But by popping a couple of toilet rolls, a kid’s potty, a block of wood, a child’s bathroom step, a Squatty Potty, 25 issues of the reader’s digest under your feet…  you’ll be able to elevate your feet, causing more of a squat position and further straightening your anal passage. No strain, no force, very minimal pressure. Here is another perfectly excellent, informative illustration that I prepared for you whilst my children destroyed the living room:

 

Illustration showing the difference in anorectal angle when sitting and squatting.

 

Try it next time you need to clear your bowels, I promise you, it makes a huge difference.

Apart from finding that anorectal angle sweet spot, there are a few other things you should do to ensure that you can poop carefree forever:

  1. Drink lots of water. Really. You have got to stay well hydrated in order to produce soft, easily passable poos.
  2. Eat lots of fibre-filled foods. Fruits, veggies, beans, lentils, whole grain breads and pastas. Fibre is your bottom’s best friend. Without it, you will have to force a rock out.
  3. Move around a lot. Walk, stretch – your body loves to move and can digest more efficiently if it is able to do so.
  4. Breathe better. Get your breathing connected with your pelvic floor. Don’t work against yourself. This is most definitely something I can help you with. You would be amazed by how many women don’t breathe correctly.
  5. Don’t rush. Forcing out a poo is never ideal. Take your time to pass your stool with minimal pressure. Trust me, you do not want to risk anal tears/fissures, haemorrhoids or prolapse later on down the line.

So, there we have it. Your guide to pooping with confidence and ease. Now don’t say I don’t treat you to some useful gems. In 30+ years, you’ll look back and thank me for your anal continence and easy stool passing.

Happy pooping,
Charlie

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