Healthy living

Last updated 05 April 2017 — Last reviewed 15 January 2014

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

Healthy eating

Good fibre intake is essential for a well functioning digestive system. Lack of fibre is one of the primary reasons for gut issues. Most Australian adults don't get the recommended intake of 30 grams of fibre per day.

Fibre is found in nuts, seeds, oats and legumes (beans, lentils)Fibre is classed 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 on healthy living.

Fluid intake

Fluid intake helps to keep you hydrated if you have diarrhoea and helps prevent constipation.

Water Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day (more if the weather is hot or if you are exercising ) because not drinking enough water 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 as they can worsen symptoms by making you need to urinate soon after eating or drinking.

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 regular and strengthen pelvic muscles regular physical activity is vital 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 which can be lifted easily without straining
  • avoid weight-training which 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
  • yoga, Pilates and belly dancing are excellent workouts as these activities strengthen the abdominal muscles and stimulate the intestines to push food through the digestive system
  • do pelvic floor exercises regularly

Smoking

If you are a smoker this is another reason to quit smoking, as chronic coughing associated with smoking can weaken your pelvic floor – if you need help call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit quit.org.au

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 January 2014.

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