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Understanding your bowel and why simple routine is so important

So many women ask me why is my male partner’s bowel like clockwork but mine isn’t….???

There are some basic things you should know about your bowel but no-one ever explains these simple things in life!

What and where is the bowel?

You have a small bowel and a large bowel. The large bowel, also known as the colon, is the place where waste (poo) is turned from liquid waste full of water, to formed waste that can be expelled easily. It is “the waste processing plant”!

The small bowel is the smaller tubes in the middle. These exit on the left of the diagram into the large bowel or “colon”. The large bowel travels up on the left of the diagram, along the top and down on the right of the diagram. The large bowel empties into the rectum down below.

What does the large bowel (colon ) do and how does it like to work?

Your colon gently churns the waste and removes excess water as it moves the waste along.

The colon has the very clever ability to move the waste forward but also to hold it back.

Have you ever noticed that you might get the feeling you need to go but are too busy and suddenly the feeling goes? Well this is nature’s way of protecting us from accidents. In other words if it isn’t suitable to go, the bowel holds the waste back until we have the time and the place to go without being disturbed. (Please note, if you are unwell and have diarrhoea, there is no holding it back. Your body is probably trying to get rid of a tummy bug fast! It arrives at the exit (rectum) as liquid. You will be urgent and there will be no holding back!)

What goes wrong?

But problems can arise if we keep putting off going to the toilet. If we keep holding back, the poor bowel can get backed up and the waste becomes hard and difficult to empty. Too much water is taken out making the poo hard like small pellets.

Think how often people get constipated on holiday….out of routine, rushing out the door for sightseeing, no comfortable toilet to go to…the bowel holds back and constipation follows.

You can encourage good bowel routine.

The bowel actually loves routine. To help us with bowel routine, we are born with a reflex to help us to be regular with bowel emptying. its called the “gastrocolic reflex”. So when we eat food, about half an hour later, the colon starts to push waste towards the exit with a large movement. We get the feeling we need to go. We have time to find a toilet in a timely manner.

Its reassuring to remember that the rectum doesn’t just fill all day leaving you vulnerable to an accident if you’re not in the right place. NO, the bowel, as discussed above, is triggered to move the poo to the rectum ready to empty after eating a meal.

But what about those regular men versus those women who don’t seem to have a clockwork bowel?

Now you can start to see that men have to be able to find a comfortable toilet before they head out…not all male toilets have good cubicles where men can sit comfortably to empty. So they make a routine before they leave the house: the bowel learns the routine making them regular as clockwork. For those who start work very early, the routine might be about coming home, having an evening meal and then the bowel wants to empty. But the bowel learns the routine and may be regular as clockwork in the evenings.

Women on the other hand always sit to empty bladder so can empty bowel any time. If you’re rushing about and not paying attention to the bowel in the busy mornings before leaving the house, the bowel will hold back till later…..BUT with a little planning and understanding in the household, the bowel can learn new routines if given the chance. Women can have a bowel like clockwork too!!

Here are simple tips for encouraging bowel routine:

  • have your breakfast first thing and a drink.
  • If you can’t eat a full breakfast, just have something to kickstart the gastrocolic reflex
  • Pay attention half an hour after this to the slight feeling that you need to empty your bowel.
  • Trust your bowel
  • Sit on the toilet in the correct forward lean position with knees slightly higher than hips.
  • RELAX
  • Use special breathing techniques taught by the Physiotherapist
  • Your bowel will empty if you give it the time.
  • Don’t strain or rush or hurry. The rectum can do the emptying if given the time and opportunity.

So finally, if you think your bowel isn’t as regular as it should be, try the above tactics. If you need more information, click on the “contact us” page and send a message so we can find you an appointment.

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You may contact Caroline Bender or make and appointment with Caroline at either location. with Cee at Frankston The Sports Injury Clinic with Candice at Dromana Pinnacle (Thursdays)