Bowel Retraining for Constipation
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Bowel retraining can be an effective method to reduce constipation, as briefly mentioned in my article about constipation.
I would like to give you some more information about bowel retraining for constipation, why it’s effective and how it works. It’s easy to implement at home and can help reduce gut issues.
The information on Positive Gut is for informational purposes only. The information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any concerns about your health, always seek the advice of your doctor.
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What is Constipation
Constipation means that your stools are not moving through your intestine fast enough, or are too hard to pass. This leads to a build-up of stools in your bowels which can cause symptoms.
Symptoms can include stomach aches, bloating, hemorrhoids and many more. If you want to read more about constipation, click here to read my article about constipation.
If you’re suffering from constipation, it’s always best to have a check-up with your doctor. Especially if ‘red flags’ are showing up with your stools. A ‘red flag’ could be an indicator that there’s something more going on than just constipation. And that is a reason to consult your doctor ASAP.
|Symptoms that are interpreted as red flags:|
|(Dried) Blood in your stools|
|Fresh blood on your stools, but usually this is a hemorrhoid|
|Consistent constipation, and having no stools for over 5 days|
|Unexplained weight loss, more than 5% of your body weight in 6 months|
|Sudden (and persistent) change in stool consistency|
However, if you’ve had tests and meetups with doctors and specialists and they can’t find a serious cause and/or solution for your constipation, a bowel retraining could be the way to go!
Do you have constipation, and does bowel retraining not help for you? Then schedule an online consultation at my online dietitian practice Darm diëtist, and I will help you with all your questions!
How Does Bowel Retraining for Constipation Work?
We all know kids need to learn how to use the toilet. But not many people know that adults could have to relearn how to use the toilet! If you have gut issues, mainly constipation and bloating, retraining your bowel could improve your symptoms.
Nowadays, we often go about with our lives and expect our bodies to adjust to our rhythm. Whenever we feel the urge to use the toilet, but it’s not a convenient time, we ‘tell’ our body to postpone it. Just wait till I have time for you, body!
‘Not a convenient time’ could be at work, at friends, when we’re getting ready to leave or it could even go as far as when we’re watching a movie or TV series!
Unfortunately, the more we tell our bodies we don’t have time, the fewer signs it will give you. If you postpone your poop for one time, it’s not a big deal. But when we’ve done it several times, our body will stop telling us it needs to go!
This way, we can lose touch with our bodily signs and miss out on our normal bowel rhythm. So instead of telling our body we don’t have time for it, we should make time whenever our body is trying to tell us something.
To make this a little more convenient, for example, to have your body give you signs at moments that are good for you. You can train your gut to have movements at a set time.
Your body works on a circadian rhythm, so if you found the right time for your bowel movements, chances are your body will give you a sign again at the same time tomorrow! How convenient is that?!
Steps of the Bowel Retraining
Choose a time of day that works for you. Pick a time when you normally have a little time to spare and are not in a hurry. For example in the morning before work (if you set your alarm 10-15 minutes earlier than usual), in your lunch break or after dinner. Your bowel has a natural movement after every meal (to make space for the new food that comes in!), so it’s usually most effective to choose a moment around mealtime.
For the coming 2 weeks, use the chosen time as your ‘toilet time’. Go and sit on the toilet for 10-15 minutes. Just sit there, relax, bring something to read and don’t strain! If there are stools that are willing to come out, you’ll feel it and you can give it a little push if needed.
Don’t stay on the toilet for much longer than 15 minutes. If the stools didn’t come out after 15 minutes, they probably won’t.
If after 15 minutes nothing happened, just get off the toilet and get on with your day and try again tomorrow. However, if you get the urge to go to the toilet later on the day, please try not to dismiss that! Find yourself a toilet and listen to the signs of your body!
And if you did have a bowel movement and a poop on your ‘toilet time’, good for you!
Repeat the steps mentioned above for at least 2 weeks. Most people will notice their body starting to give signs to go to the toilet at the set time and will have a regular bowel movement every day (or sometimes every other day). Ideally, you would keep the set time to try and go to the toilet every day! And hopefully have your regular poop, to prevent constipation.
If you don’t get a regular bowel movement after 2 weeks, the bowel retraining wasn’t the solution for you, unfortunately. Try having a look at my 12 best constipation treatments and maybe you’ll find your solution there!
Tips for Bowel Retraining
Apart from the steps described above, there’s some additional steps you can take to improve the effectivity of the bowel retraining.
Tip 1. Make sure you have a good posture. When sitting on the toilet, ideally your knees are above your hips and your feet are apart wider than your hips. Nowadays, there are a lot of high toilets, which let you sit at a 90-degree angle like you would on a chair. This way, the muscle that is keeping your anus closed is tightened, and stools are harder to pass. When your knees are above hip-height, the muscle is relaxed and stools are easier to pass.
If your toilet is too high to get your knees above hip level, it is an option to buy a little step to put your feet on. This way you elevate your knees. One of the better steps is ‘squatty potty’. Squatty potties are available in different heights, so make sure to pick a height that would fit your body. When a squatty potty is too high, it gets uncomfortable and does not help you poop!
Tip 2. Don’t get stressed when it doesn’t work right away! Give it some time, your gut usually needs 2 weeks to adjust. Whether it’s a new food pattern or new poop pattern.
Tip 3. Bring a book or magazine with you, or put some music on. This can help you relax.
Tip 4. Take your pants and underpants off. This way it’s easier to put your feet further apart. When your knees are above your hips, it’s also important to have your feet a little apart, preferably wider than your hips. This helps relax your anal muscle.
Tip 5. It can help to ‘wiggle’ your knees a little to help relax your anal muscle. Slowly widen your knees and bring them back together. Or even slowly rock back and forward on the toilet seat a little.
And, even if it might look silly (there’s no one there with you anyway), it can even help to open and close your mouth while you move your knees. Trust me.
Now get started with your bowel retraining and start getting your daily poop! Let me know in the comments whether it worked for you!
Hi there, I’m Manon.
In my daily life I work as a registered dietitian in the Netherlands with a special interest in gut health.
During my workday I get loads of questions about healthy food, recipes and lifestyle to make it a little easier to get healthy. On Positive Gut I collect my best recommendations, tips and recipes to make your healthy lifestyle a little easier!