Before we get into today’s topic — exercises for constipation post-surgery (specifically, repair of pelvic organ prolapse) — I have to ask: have you seen these fantastic animated videos and graphics of prolapse? Do yourself a favor and click here to view these quick videos. They should be required viewing for all women so you can know what’s “going on down there” if you have prolapse… Or even if you don’t, and are curious about what prolapse is and what it looks like. REALLY GREAT STUFF from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists!
Onto today’s reader question:
“Hi Brianne, I am 3 weeks post op for pelvic floor prolapse repair (rectocele and vaginal vault prolapse).
I get constipated very easily — for most of my 66 years — and now is no different. I don’t want to strain right now due to the surgery, so I usually ‘take something’ to make going easier. I want to discontinue these products (Senekot, Dulcolax) as I don’t want to become dependent on them, but find I need them at least every other day. I am also working with SIBO diet restrictions so have to go easy on fibre intake. Eeks!
I thought the operation would correct this situation (the constipation), but it may just take time for my body to heal before I notice a difference — what do you think? Any suggestions on exercises for constipation and post-op tummy exercises? At this point I am taking things very easy as I heal.”
It’s essential to “take things easy” post-op, so good for you! You definitely want to follow your surgeon’s precautions. Heed all of them — the LIFTING RESTRICTIONS in particular, especially after prolapse repair. Picking up your cat or your grandchild before you’re fully healed is NOT WORTH risking your surgical repair!
Of course, you also want to avoid straining on the toilet… Hence your question. Surgery always does a number on one’s system due to the anesthesia and medications provided, so it’s no wonder that you’re “stopped up” —especially if you had troubles with that before.
We’ll get to exercises for constipation, but first let’s talk about LIQUID.
Have you experimented with Natural Calm magnesium drink? (You can “google it.”) I discuss Natural Calm in my book, and I find that it really helps with mood and regularity. It also helps with sleep! I like drinking it with dinner, or directly after dinner to prepare me for a good night’s sleep (and a “regular” morning).
Speaking of the morning, it’s important to get up and drink 8-16 oz of water as soon as possible to rehydrate your brain, eyes, skin, and joints, and to get your bowels moving. Room temperature (or warm) water is ideal; don’t “shock” your system by drinking something cold! While your body was sleeping, your natural systems of detoxification were working hard. Cold water can squelch the digestive “fire” that was burning overnight, so remember to take your morning liquids at room temp (or warmer).
You can also try my “morning tonic” as a fun morning drink option (click here or on the picture below for the recipe):
Of course, liquid of any kind is essential for digestive health, but my morning tonic is a great way to warm and stimulate the bowels first thing in the morning.
Since we’re on the subject of drinks, adding one drop of Zendocrine® (an essential oil blend made by doTERRA) to your daily morning wake-up water is a great way to support your body’s natural ability to detoxify. Zendocrine not only delivers powerful antioxidants, it also helps support healthy liver, lung, kidney, colon, and skin function. Sign up here if you’d like to chat with me about Zendocrine or other natural remedies that can help with elimination.
Now let’s talk about MOVEMENT!!! Exercises for constipation and post-op tummy flattening:
FIRST, a disclaimer for anyone who’s reading this blog post after a surgical procedure: as I said above, always follow your doctor’s post-surgical precautions and instructions as far as when to begin an exercise program!!! This post is informational only; it is not intended to provide individualized medical advice.
With that being said…
Gentle daily walking is a great place to start. I recommend starting with 5-10 minutes twice each day, and working up to 3o-40 minutes every day. Beginning a slow and gentle, gradually progressive walking program is SAFE for your stage of healing (3 weeks post-op for prolapse repair, in the reader’s question above), and the soothing, repetitive movement is very stimulating for the digestive tract. Furthermore, the overall fitness benefits of walking include improved circulation and lymphatic drainage, general strength and conditioning, cardiovascular health, and tummy flattening by way of overall reduction in body fat composition.
Obviously, walking is great. But in addition to daily walking, add some hip circles to your daily routine! Hip circles gently strengthen all of the muscles of the core, and they can stimulate sluggish digestion. Try my morning hip circle challenge to get started. While healing, keep the circles SMALL and CONTROLLED and STOP if anything feels uncomfortable or painful.
If everything feels GOOD with the morning hip circle challenge (i.e. no pain or discomfort), and as long as you are at the stage of healing in which all surgical incisions are closed and healing well, and as long as your doc has cleared you for gentle core strengthening exercises, then you can move on to a slightly more advanced routine. The following morning movement routine specifically addresses exercises for constipation. Again, do NOT do any of the moves if they feel painful or uncomfortable.
As a final exercise to add to your post prolapse repair “to-do” list, I encourage you to include 4-5 “corkscrew kegels” into your daily fitness routine. Keeping the pelvic floor muscles strong, supple, and coordinated is essential to protect the integrity of the surgical repair site and to improve pelvic organ support from below.
When doing “corkscrew kegels” (or any other type of kegel exercise), remember to focus not just on the contraction (the lifting of the pelvic floor), but also on the RELAXATION (the lowering/releasing of the pelvic floor). This is not only important for muscular health, it’s also important for constipation! If your pelvic floor muscles are overly active and tight, it will be hard for them to “let go” when it’s time to have a bowel movement. So definitely focus JUST AS MUCH — if not more — on the RELEASE when practicing your kegels. Follow along with the video below!
Have you tried the Squatty Potty? It’s great!
Lastly, I describe abdominal massage in the constipation section of my book. Gentle abdominal massage can be helpful when done on a daily basis to stimulate your digestive tract, assuming it doesn’t interfere with surgical incisions.
Good luck. I hope these tips and exercises for constipation help!