5 Foods That Can Improve Your Pelvic Health
February 01, 2021
We’ve talked a lot in other posts about how pelvic floor exercise impacts pelvic health, but your diet can also play an important role.
Diet can have a huge influence on the function of virtually all body systems, either helping or hurting (depending on what you consume). While it’s best thought of as A tool in your toolbelt and not THE silver bullet, it’s definitely worth learning about to try to maximize helpful foods and minimize harmful ones, especially if you experience challenges with bladder control, pelvic pain or sexual function.
Here are five foods that can be beneficial for your pelvic health.
Hydration has a significant impact on how well your bladder and bowels work. If you’re not getting enough water, your body will struggle to eliminate waste and you may run into issues with constipation (which in turn is linked to pelvic floor dysfunction). As a rule of thumb, the Mayo Clinic recommends that women drink 11.5 cups of water/day (although this recommendation changes depending on factors like exercise, illness, pregnancy, and breastfeeding). And they mean specifically water, not caffeinated beverages or drinks with sweeteners or artificial sugars (more to come soon on that topic!).
Bladder irritation can also lead to chronic bladder infections, incontinence, and trouble with urination. Drinking plenty of water will hydrate your body and flush out toxins and bladder irritants, keeping your colon in good shape. And, reducing fluid intake makes the bladder more sensitive to the need to pee. So, you want to make sure you’re drinking enough water to fill your bladder properly so it can get the signal to empty appropriately instead of too soon. All in all, keep drinking that water!
Bananas contain a number of nutrients that are good for your pelvic health, from Vitamin B6 to magnesium. They are known to ease symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and lactose intolerance, which are things that can contribute to pelvic floor disorders.
Bananas can also help with incontinence worries because they reduce bladder muscle spasms and enable the bladder to fully empty upon urination. Magnesium, which is a highly recommended nutrient for easing pelvic pain, has also been shown to relieve constipation due to its laxative effect; it draws water into the stool, eases tension, and makes the stool softer to make the bowel movement easier. (With that said, there are some people who find that bananas can constipate them, so as always, listen to your body).
Many of us consume a lot of omega 6 fatty acid (from vegetable oils commonly found in junk food) that, according to the Interstitial Cystitis Association, can cause inflammation and contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are a different type of fatty acids (frequently found in fish oils) that naturally decrease inflammation and help reduce irritation caused by other fatty acids.
The recommended dosage of Omega-3 for its anti-inflammatory effects is between 2,000 and 3,000 milligrams per day. Just one 6-ounce filet of high quality wild-caught salmon contains this amount. You can also get a healthy amount from anchovies, certain types of tuna, and fish oil capsules or from foods like flax seeds, chia seeds or walnuts.
Omega-3s can also improve cardiovascular health, which is a plus for sexual function (among other things). Omega-3 can be found in many other foods including flax and chia seeds and walnuts.
AvocadosAvocados are loaded with fiber, which is a highly recommended nutrient for improving conditions like constipation that weaken the pelvic floor or aggravate existing pelvic floor dysfunction such as overactive bladder.
They are also great sources of vitamins C, E, K and B-6. These nutrients can help strengthen pelvic muscles (particularly when combined with a good kegel exercise routine). And the potassium they contain acts as a natural diuretic that can help flush excess sodium and fluid out of your body.
Researchers from the Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis examined the effect of a high-fiber diet in relieving constipation problems in women with pelvic floor disorders. The study found that a high-fiber diet was beneficial in relieving constipation and preventing related problems. You can also get your fiber fix from whole grains and veggies like barley, oatmeal, broccoli and peas.
Vitamin D is well-known to affect skeletal muscle strength and function. Low Vitamin D has been associated with bone and muscle weakness, including in the core and lower back.
Some studies suggest that higher vitamin D levels in both older and younger women could improve pelvic muscle strength, with a possible reduction in the prevalence of pelvic floor disorders including urinary incontinence. Also, as women age, they are more prone to Vitamin D deficiency, which has been linked to a higher instance of pelvic organ prolapse among older women. And while additional research is needed on this front, there are additional benefits to Vitamin D as well.
Vitamin D can be found in foods including oily fish, raw milk, and eggs. However, the very best way to ensure you’re getting Vitamin D is to spend some time in the sun! Your body is amazing, and if you just catch some rays for a few minutes a day, it will do the rest.
Coincidentally, doing Kegels while walking around can also be a good part of your routine, so get out into the sun when you can and double up on improving your pelvic floor health!
ConclusionAs with so many things in life, balance and moderation are the name of the game. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, your diet can definitely have a beneficial effect (or a negative one) on aspects of your pelvic health like bladder control, pelvic pain and your sex life. But what you eat and drink is just one piece of the puzzle. So keep the information above in mind when you’re doing your meal planning but also remember to pay attention to exercise and other options so that you can get the most out of your pelvic health!
(Lastly and as always, if you have pelvic floor issues or experience pelvic or back pain, it's never a bad idea to talk with a pelvic floor physical therapist to help determine what type of diet, exercise or physical therapy routine might be best to help you keep a healthy pelvic floor.)