As many of us ride the ever changing wave of mid-life there are many things about our bodies that we notice start to change. For women, one frustrating change is the increasing lethargy of our pelvic muscles. Do you find yourself having to run to the bathroom more often? You are not alone. “Experts estimate that by 2050, one in three women will have some form of pelvic floor disorder… and the number of women with urinary incontinence is projected to increase by 55 percent (from 18.3 million in 2010 to 28.4 million in 2020).”*
Those are sobering numbers, but there are things that you can do. No one loves to talk about incontinence (or UTI’s for that matter), but if it’s affecting this many women then it needs to be discussed. Now. You don’t want to live a life filled with embarrassment and anxiety. So before you try not to laugh or sneeze anymore (because of leaking) or resign yourself to constantly buying pads, here’s some excellent advice about how to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong and gain more control. You can do this!
There are many factors that lead up to these issues. Hormonal changes, sedentary lifestyles, sitting on the “throne” to go to the bathroom vs. squatting. (Yes, we are meant to squat.) The list goes on. As always, one of my go-to experts on women’s health is Dr. Christiane Northrup. She leaves no stone unturned and does deep dives into important health issues. In her book “The Wisdom of Menopause” she has a whole section on creating pelvic health.
Some key takeaways include dietary changes for overall pelvic health. The goal is to balance excess hormones and allow energy to flow in this region. She recommends trying to eliminate all dairy products as they are inflammatory and linked to period cramps and endometriosis pain. Same goes for red meat. Also helpful is to reduce caffeine intake and take probiotics regularly.
In terms of supplements, make sure you are taking your magnesium (up to 1,000 mg/day), vitamin C (1,000-5,000mg/day), B-Complex, and especially vitamin D.
For pelvic floor strength, the tried and true kegel exercises are important. Kegels strengthen your pubococcygeus (PC) muscle. You know the one. When you go to the bathroom and try to stop the stream of urine, you are using the PC muscle. There are various exercises and time lengths for these exercises but you can also use weighted vaginal cones and jade eggs to get the same benefit. However, here’s a twist. To really get the most out of kegels it’s really important to also incorporate squats into your daily routine. Why? Because in a natural squatting position your tailbone is pulled back instead of being tucked under. In this position, the pelvic floor is much better able to hold up the pelvic organs and help you put a stop to leakage.
Here are three excellent resources if you feel like you need to strengthen your pelvic floor:
- Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book The Wisdom of Menopause is a must read. Full of so much wisdom, both scientific and anecdotal from hundreds of women. She has an entire chapter on this subject.
- You Don’t Know Squat, from Katy Bowman’s website, which describes not only why doing squats is essential for pelvic health, but she’ll also demonstrate the right way to do them.
- Yoga for Pelvic Health from Yoga with Adriene, is a roughly 30-minute yoga sequence with asanas and movements geared toward strengthening the pelvis. Adriene has a great presence: clear, engaging and empathetic.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but if you’re committed to seeing results, following a few key strategies with consistency will bring you improved pelvic strength.
*”The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change,” Christiane Nothrup, MD