Healthy living


A healthy diet, including adequate fibre and fluid intake, is important to a healthy digestive system. The importance of bowel flora (good bacteria) and keeping physically active is also discussed.

Healthy eating

Good fibre intake is essential for a well-functioning digestive system. A lack of fibre is one of the main causes of gut issues. Most Australian adults don't get the recommended intake of 30 grams of fibre per day.

Fibre is classified as:

  • insoluble, such as wholegrain cereal products, nuts and seeds
  • soluble, such as oat products, legumes (beans and lentils), fruit and vegetables.

Both are necessary for a healthy digestive system. More information on fibre and recipes to help you increase your daily fibre can be found in healthy living.

Fluid intake

Fluids help to keep you hydrated if you have diarrhoea and help prevent constipation.

Fluids Drink 6-8 glasses of fluids per day (more if the weather is hot or if you are exercising), because not drinking enough fluids makes faeces (also called stools) hard, dry and difficult to pass, which increases the strain on the pelvic floor muscles.
Caffeine and alcohol Cut down on caffeinated drinks, carbonated beverages and alcohol.

Bowel flora for healthy bowels

The gut contains billions of good bacteria called bowel flora. Some of these bacteria may be destroyed by repeated antibiotic use, long-term oral contraceptive pill use, stress and poor diet. Yoghurt containing live cultures can help replenish these good bacteria. Some women may need a prescription for a supplement to help with replenishment of good gut bacteria.

Physical activity

Woman on exercise ballTo help keep the bowel regular and strengthen pelvic muscles, regular physical activity is vital. It is important for women to:

  • exercise daily, but avoid heavy weight training, sit-ups and high-impact exercise if incontinence and prolapse are a problem
  • use lighter weights that can be lifted easily without straining
  • avoid weight-training that causes you to hold your breath or strain
  • opt for core strengthening on an exercise ball, and cardiovascular exercise such as walking, swimming or bike riding rather than running, jumping or high-impact aerobics
  • do pelvic floor exercises regularly.

Smoking

If you smoke, the chronic coughing associated with smoking can weaken your pelvic floor – for help to quit, call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit quit.org.au.

Last updated 01 September 2018 — Last reviewed 04 August 2018

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at August 2018.

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