One topic that has continued to fascinate me, and an area that I often work on with my patients, is the relationship between the gut and the pelvic floor. In very simple terms, your gut health and pelvic health are intimately connected and if you’re paying attention to one, it’s important and supportive to look at the other.
While this might feel intuitive to some, in our current medical culture this often seems surprising. Yes, the abdomen and pelvis are stacked atop the other, but are we talking about the difference between organs and muscles? Why would gut health have anything to do with uterine prolapse?
The answer to this is multi-faceted and complex – involving alignment, core engagement, hormones, the vagus nerve, emotional resilience, exposure to toxins, and the gut microbiota – but I’m going to try and break it down.
Essentially, our body is a pressure dependent container system. We have three major containers – the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities. Too much pressure in one cavity can alter motion and function in the other.
Returning to the prolapse example, many women who I see with prolapse have a pressure problem where they engage in what’s known as paradoxical breathing. Paradoxical breathing is just a technical term for reverse breathing; sucking up the diaphragm on the inhale and subsequently bulging out the pelvic organs on the exhale, rather than lifting the perineum. This causes a pressure problem that descends from the thoracic cavity down through the gut to the pelvic cavity. Being able to expand our rib cage lets the diaphragm descend in proper ways which allows and encourages other areas of the body, such as the pelvic floor and gut, to function the way they should.
Another example of an unhealthy chain reaction from gut to pelvis is with the case of myofascial pelvic, back, or hip pain. If digestive health is not prioritized, it often results in inflammation within the digestive tract or around organs. This causes a reaction in one of our neurological reflexes called the viscerocutaneous reflex, which describes a relationship between the organs and connective tissues around a certain area. Essentially, if there is inflammation in and around the organs, which is what happens when we have gut issues, the muscles in the area tighten in response, thereby causing other muscles to become inhibited. This can show up as a too-tight core muscles, hip muscles, or pelvic floor muscles. This is why it’s important to address inflammation at its source by supporting gut health and healthy elimination.
The core and pelvic floor are a team, they need to be activated and treated together. Core training is more of a finessing the engagement of specific stabilizing muscles to be able to handle the loads we place on our bodies. It is often too hard for women to do this in higher level exercise programs, like crossfit and boot camps, because they are asking their bodies to support too much and calling in the wrong muscles to do the job. That’s when we see a breakdown in the pressure system with signs of urine leakage, bowel incontinence, or prolapse as the result.
Alignment isn’t something that changes overnight. If we have pressure problems, or stability problems, we need to train our bodies to change by engaging in mindful movement. During my FeminEnergy Program, which is starting on October 19th at Be Center Studio in Boulder, CO, we do exactly that. We address core stability and pelvic health from a holistic perspective – integrating alignment with healthy movement, emotional support, and guidance on nutrition and wellness.
I’m so excited to be offering this program in the new 8-Week format because it gives us a chance to really dive deep into the exercises and information, all while fostering deep connection and community. For more information and to sign up please visit this link.