Is there a prolapse diet?
Can your diet effect your prolapse?
Strictly speaking there’s no ‘prolapse diet’.
Your diet can definitely effect your prolapse:
- Diet contributes to abdominal fat – the more abdominal body fat you carry the greater the load on your pelvic floor.
- Diet influences bowel movements – constipation and diarrhoea can cause straining to empty and worsen prolapse problems.
- Diet can cause abdominal bloating, gas and IBS – abdominal bloating, flatulence and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) can all cause discomfort and worsen prolapse symptoms.
Please note: bowel problems including constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and IBS can have underlying medical causes. It’s important not to ‘self-diagnose’ bowel problems. See your medical practitioner for assessment of your symptoms and before making changes to your diet. Consult with an accredited dietician for dietary guidance and support.
1. Diet and Abdominal Fat
Your abdominal fat isn’t the fat you feel at your waist line, rather it surrounds your abdominal organs and sits directly above your pelvic floor.
What supports the weight of your abdomen? Your pelvic floor!
If your pelvic floor is under strain your prolapse will suffer too.
This is why avoiding unnecessary weight gain is important if you’ve got prolapse problems and after prolapse surgery.
If you’re overweight you will help your prolapse management by losing abdominal fat.
Prolapse Solutions for Diet and Abdominal Fat
Unfortunately you can’t spot reduce abdominal fat through diet which needs a whole body weight reduction approach.
You can however exercise to reduce abdominal fat with alternating high and low intensity exercise.
Here are some simple weight management tips:
- Avoid fad weight loss diets or products (e.g. some diet shakes) that slow your bowel movements and cause constipation with prolapse
- Don’t skip meals – eating stimulates bowel movements
- Avoid artificial sweeteners with the potential to cause flatulence and impact on your bowel movements (see below)
- Drink adequate water and low energy fluid – your fluid intake effects your bowel movements (see below)
- Avoid late night snacks before going to bed – your metabolism slows when you sleep
- Write down what you eat and drink – you may be surprised at what you’re consuming
- Monitor your incidental food intake – it’s very easy to snack when preparing food for others
- The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating provides current evidence-based information about the types and amount of foods to reduce the risk of diet-related conditions including obesity and high cholesterol and chronic diseases including some cancers, diabetes and heart disease
Prolapse Diet and Weight Loss Exercise
Some women become very concerned that they won’t be unable to exercise to manage their weight with a prolapse.
Fortunately most women with prolapse problems can exercise effectively to manage their weight, avoid weight gain or lose weight.
- Keep weight management simple i.e. weight management = energy in (diet) – energy used (exercise/physical activity)
- Calculate your energy in (dietary) requirements using this simple daily energy requirements calculator
- Include pelvic floor safe low impact fitness exercise into your regular routine
- Include weight loss exercises that avoid prolapse worsening into your regular exercise routine
- Choose alternating high and low intensity workouts are the best abdominal fat weight loss exercises
The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend that to lose weight healthy, individuals perform 60 – 90 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most week days to accumulate more than 300 minutes of exercise weekly.
2. Diet and Constipation
Constipation and straining cause and worsen prolapse problems.
If your bowel is sluggish you may be familiar with the feeling of prolapse heaviness and dragging sensation that can accompany constipation.
Women with rectocoele (prolapse of the back wall of the vagina) are particularly vulnerable to constipation).
Aim to get the correct stool consistency as a priority.
It’s vital to aim for a soft well formed stool to help you empty your bowels without straining.
The ideal stool consistency for bowel emptying is Type 3-4 on the Bristol Stool Chart (click right to enlarge)
1. Food and Stool Consistency
Foods that soften the stool include:
- Vegetables – green beans, spinach, red capsicum, garlic, green beans
- Fresh fruit with skins – stone fruits* (e.g. apricots, peaches, plums) grapes, prunes*
- High fibre cereals – bran*, multigrain breads* and whole grain cereals*
- Snacks – popped corn, chocolate
- Coffee* and tea
- Spices e.g. chilli, curry
* Can cause abdominal bloating
Avoid the common mistake of consuming too much fibre!
Eating too much fibre, especially insoluble fibre (e.g. skins of fruits and vegetables, seeds) can make constipation and bloating much worse.
Dietary fibre is important for correct stool consistency.
Most women should aim for 25-30 grams ( .8-1 oz) per day.
Fluids and Stool Consistency
Some women don’t drink adequate fluids to help them manage their stool consistency especially when they’re increasing their fibre intake or taking fibre supplements.
Most women should aim for around 2 litres (67 oz) of water on average however this can vary.
Some women with certain medical conditions need to limit their fluid intake and these women need to be mindful to avoid too much fibre causing a sluggish bowel.
Fluids that promote bowel movements include:
- Some fruit juices: pear, prune or grape
- Coffee* and tea
Have breakfast to help stimulate your bowel. Sometimes a warm drink in the morning and moving can help promote bowel movements.
Diet and Chronic Diarrhoea
Women with frequent bowel movements are also at risk of pelvic floor strain and worsening prolapse problems.
If you suffer from chronic diarrhoea or loose stools you may benefit from avoiding or limiting some of the foods and drinks mentioned above that soften the stool.
Foods that firm the stool include:
- White cereals – white rice, white pasta, white bread
- White marshmallows
Diet and Abdominal Bloating
Abdominal bloating and/or flatulence can be a huge problem for women with prolapse problems.
Some ladies find that by the end of the day their abdomen is so bloated that it puts strain on their belly and their prolapse causing abdominal pain and pelvic floor discomfort.
Pushing down and straining to pass gas with prolapse can worsen prolapse problems.
Bloating can be caused my many dietary factors; some foods are not well absorbed in the gut so that they ferment producing gas more than others causing abdominal bloating.
Diet Solutions for Bloating
Some women have IBS problems that cause their gut to poorly digest certain foods causing bloating, excessive gas or wind, pain in the abdomen as well as constipation and/or diarrhoea.
When combined with prolapse IBS can make managing prolapse and discomfort very challenging indeed.
Scientific studies have shown that IBS symptoms can be managed by reducing FODMAPS in the diet.
FODMAPS is an acronym for some of the sugars that aren’t well absorbed in the gut. These sugars produce gas and cause water to be drawn into the gut.
The low FODMAP diet can provide significant relief for women with IBS and prolapse.
Foods HIGH in FODMAPS
Here are some examples of foods that can cause bloating, flatulence and discomfort:
- High fructose – honey, apples, figs, dried fruit, high fructose corn syrup
- Oligosaccharides – legumes (e.g. chick peas, lentils, baked beans), wheat, rye, barley, garlic, onion, leek
- Disaccharides (lactose) – milk, unripe cheese (e.g. cottage, ricotta), yogurt
- Polylols – sweeteners containing xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, pears, stone fruits such as avocado, plums, nectarines, cherries, prunes
This high FODMAPS list is by no means comprehensive. Perhaps if eating some of these foods cause you bloating you may like to read up on FODMAPS.
The only way to really know whether a food or drink is causing your bloating is to eliminate it from your diet and then reintroduce it as a trial.
Resources for FODMAPS including a user-friendly App are available from Monash University.
A low FODMAP diet is ideally undertaken under the supervision of an accredited dietician.
Key Points for Prolapse Diet
- Your diet has the potential to impact upon your prolapse
- Prolapse is effected by abdominal body fat, bowel problems (constipation or diarrhoea) and bloating with flatulence
- Your diet can help you better manage all these factors that potentially impact upon your prolapse
- Seek the assistance of a qualified dietician as part of your prolapse management strategy if you suffer from diet-related prolapse problems
with Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist Michelle Kenway
Learn how to exercise safely, strengthen your prolapse and reduce your risk of repeat prolapse.
Prolapse Exercises is a complete exercise guide for women after prolapse surgery seeking to exercise safely and protect their pelvic floor.