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Many of us will know that one of the best things that we can do to for our pelvic floor is pelvic floor exercise.
However, did you know that an extra way to support your pelvic floor health lies in your diet and the food that you eat?
This article will share 10 ways that foods can be included or avoided for pelvic health.
The pelvic floor is a hammock-like muscle that supports the base of the body. It plays an important role in bladder control, and the stabilisation of the pelvic organs. If you have a weak pelvic floor you might suffer from urinary incontinence, which can be triggered by sneezing, coughing, or laughing, urgency to urinate, besides frequent urinary tract infections (UTI) or vaginal prolapse.
Oestrogen plays a regulatory role in the production of collagen which helps with muscle and tissue strength. As oestrogen decreases during the perimenopause (to near zero once menopause occurs), the tissues surrounding the bladder, pelvic floor and vagina lose elasticity which can mean the area becomes more irritated.
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A weakened pelvic floor can also be caused by periods in our life such as illness, medications, chronic constipation, and childbirth.
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The main aims of a pelvic health diet are to help you to maintain muscle, reduce inflammation and ward off oxidative damage (which is caused by exposure to pollution, endurance exercise and heavy metals). You also want to ensure that the surrounding organs such as the kidneys, liver, bowel, and bladder function in a normal manner.
Here are 10 nutrition and lifestyle tips for a happy and healthy pelvic floor:
Pelvic health is highly impacted by constipation; therefore, a good intake of fibre rich foods is essential.
When constipated the combined urge to push and the pressure of the full bowel on the bladder puts stress on the pelvic floor. If your bowels are stagnant, they may also emit toxins that are reabsorbed through the intestinal tissues, making the situation worse still.
Generally dietary guidance is to consume 30 grams of fibre daily. This means 7-11 servings daily of vegetables and fruit in a variety of colours, plus peas, beans, lentils and wholegrains.
Research has shown that those with pelvic floor disorders and constipation who increased their fibre intake to at least 28g daily saw an improvement in constipation and a reduction in pelvic floor treatments.
Good quality protein at each meal is essential.
Collagen relies on proline and lysine - amino acids that make up protein. Good options include bone broth, wild oily fish, grass fed meats and eggs plus legumes, nuts and seeds.
Additionally, your body requires vitamin C, plus plant pigments to support normal collagen production, and to protect what it currently has.
The pelvic region can become irritated in response to certain foods and drinks. Caffeine, carbonated drinks and alcohol are potent diuretics and bladder irritants.
In addition, sugary foods and sugar alternatives can alter the vaginal and bladder pH to greater acidity, which makes the tissues prone to UTIs.
Try swapping biscuits, sweets, and cake for flavonoid rich dark chocolate, seeds, or berries. For drinks, water and herbal or fruit teas are best, in fact, electrolytes added to water will help to maintain mineral balance.
Interestingly, bladder tissue contains vitamin D receptor sites and therefore it is considered that adequate vitamin D is essential to support pelvic health.
Public Health England recommend that the UK population require a minimum of 400iu of supplemental vitamin D3 daily during the winter months, however this may be extended for those who suffer with frequent infections, have black or Asian skin tone, or do not expose their skin to the sun.
Vitamin D can be found in UV exposed mushrooms, salmon, and eggs but often, if a large amount is necessary supplementation maybe an option.
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Frequent trips to the toilet are a characteristic of bladder weakness, the muscles that envelope the bladder become weakened and the amount of fluid the bladder can hold decreases.
Angelica archangelica is a Scandinavian herb renown for bladder strength and research showed a reduced number of toilet trips and an increase in the volume of urine that the bladder can hold after 12 weeks of supplementation.
This can be complimented by pumpkin seed, which is rich in plant specific nutrients that allow the bladder to relax and expand, thus reduce the frequency of urination.
That being said, a large proportion of urinary tract infections respond to cranberry, potassium citrate and vitamin C which each have an alkalising and antibacterial effect on the tissues.
They help to reduce the chance of bacterial adhesion to the tissues and thus an infection cannot be exerted.
Pelvic floor disorders can make sex uncomfortable and induce anxiety. If you’re able to improve the pelvic floor disorder using the tips in this article, then the consumption of Maca, a Peruvian adaptogenic vegetable, has been reported to stimulate libido. While Hyaluronic acid or MSM (methyl sulphonyl methane) can be useful to address vaginal dryness.
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The pelvic region is home to a unique spectrum of bacteria, known as the vaginal biome. A disruption to the biome is associated with exacerbated pelvic floor disorder symptoms.
Fermented foods offer a great way to support bacterial diversity for instance, fermented yogurts and foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and natto.
Research has established a relationship between obesity and urinary incontinence. That's why a weight reduction of 5-10% in obese women who suffered with urinary incontinence saw a reduction in involuntary urination combined with a significant improvement in quality of life.
Finally, as with any muscle, once the right nutrients are provided the muscle needs to be worked. This can be practising ‘Kegel’ squeezes, but also includes walking, running, yoga and Pilates to name a few. A sedentary lifestyle is a contributing factor to pelvic floor disorders.
RELATED ARTICLE: How do you actually do pelvic floor exercises?
Overall, a wholefoods diet is the basis for a pelvic floor diet. This is a diet that incorporates foods in their natural state 80% of the time, which leaves you 20% of calories for whatever you fancy.
You can then get the next level of support through specific nutrients which are known to support specific requirements: for example maca for libido, angelica archangelica for bladder health or hyaluronic acid for vaginal dryness.
For advice on personalised food supplement choices consider your local independent health store who will be able to offer recommendations based on your health goals. Find your local store at www.findahealthstore.com
Jenny Carson, MRes, BSc (Hons) is a Senior Nutritionist at ethical vitamin company Viridian Nutrition. She has over 5 years’ experience supporting people with nutritional health advice. She recently completed a Master of Research(MRes) in Public Health, giving her a wide understanding of public health nutrition. Her other focus areas include ageing, dealing with stress, peri and post-menopause, detox and mood. For more information visit www.viridian-nutrition.com
This article is for information purposes and does not refer to any individual products. The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.
This article is a paid partnership with Viridian Nutrition.
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