Medically reviewed by Amanda Savage 20/07/2023
How Diet Affects Your Prolapse
We should always aim to eat a healthy diet and stay well hydrated, and this is especially important when it comes to living with a pelvic organ prolapse. Fuelling your body with the right energy will help you deal with your symptoms and aid your recovery.
By following the advice below you can learn more about how prolapses can be specifically helped by improving your diet. The advice is also relevant if you suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or a chronic inflammatory bowel condition such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
What Food and Drinks Help Prevent and Reduce Prolapses?
The best diet to help prevent a prolapse, or stop it from getting any worse, is one that is full of fibre and stool softening foods that help you avoid constipation and associated straining. The aim being to have 'normal' and regular bowel movements.
Good foods for this include:
- fruits – apples, pears, apricots, peaches, prunes, currants, grapes, oranges
- vegetables – sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, kale, spinach, green beans
- wholegrain – cereals and breads
- pulses and beans – baked beans and tinned beans such as kidney beans
- water – aim to drink 1.5 litres per day
As we get older we lose interest in food as it begins to taste more bland and we lose the energy to cook. But as we age we are more vulnerable to prolapses as our pelvic floor muscles are weaker. Therefore, it is at this point that it is even more important to get plenty of fibre - 22 to 34 grams a day. If this sounds familiar then you may consider eating fibre rich breakfast cereals, or tinned vegetable soups as an easy way to introduce more fibre into your diet.
The one thing we can all do, is to drink plenty of water! The more hydrated we are, the more likely we are to have normal, soft stools. Aim to drink between six to eight glasses of fresh water a day. Brighten it up by adding fresh lemons and limes, or add your favourite berries. Don’t be tempted to rely too much on squash or cordials as these can be high in sugar.
What Food and Drink Should Be Avoided?
If you’re living with a pelvic organ prolapse, then you should avoid foods which increase your weight, cause loose stools or diarrhoea, encourage constipation, gas and bloating:
- high fat foods – pizzas, chips, curries, pies, deep fried foods, pastries
- high sugar foods – sweets, soft drinks, chocolates, ice creams
- high FODMAP foods – honey, apples, figs, garlic, onions, chick peas, lentils, cow’s milk and other dairy products, artificial sweeteners etc.
- low fibre foods - cheese, fast food, meat, processed food
To identify if any of the foods you enjoy contribute to your prolapse, try eliminating one at a time to acknowledge whether your symptoms improve.
Its important to recognise that we are all different. The different exercises and activities we do throughout the day mean we need slightly different varieties of food. Listen to your body and understand which foods trigger diarrhoea, bloating, or other uncomfortable symptoms. For example, its not a secret that coffee can get things moving for most people. But for some people drinking coffee makes them bloated. If this is you then having a drink of warm water with lemon juice, or a glass of pure orange juice with breakfast can be a good replacement. If you are unsure, you can work with a Dietitian to make informed changes to your diet.
Foods That Cause Weight Gain
The more high fat and high sugar foods we eat, the more weight we carry. If we eat a lot of fat and sugar, and become overweight or obese, as a woman, this tends to collect around the abdomen. And the abdomen is supported by the pelvic floor muscles, so this excess weight and pressure can cause the pelvic floor muscles to become weak, leaving us vulnerable to developing a pelvic organ prolapse.
Foods That Cause Constipation
If you’re continually constipated, it’s likely that your diet isn’t what it should be. Constipation causes you to strain when you go to the toilet to pass a stool, and this continual action can cause the pelvic floor muscles to loosen and any prolapses you are developing, to worsen. To avoid constipation, you should be eating plenty of fibre and foods that help soften the stools.
Foods That Cause Diarrhoea
Chronic diarrhoea can also put unnecessary strain on the pelvic floor muscles. If you know that a hot curry will cause you to have diarrhoea the next day, then avoid them. If too much fruit has the same effect, try substituting it for more vegetables. It may seem obvious, but avoid food poisoning by binning out of date foods, reheat food throughout and keep your hands and food preparation area clean.
Foods That Cause Gas and Bloating
You may not be aware that foods that cause you to bloat or have ‘wind’, can also put extra pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, but they do. If you find that your prolapse symptoms get progressively worse throughout the day, this could be because of a build up of gas. Gas is usually caused by foods fermenting in the gut. If you eat a lot of foods that are difficult to break down, then they cause more gas. This is more of a problem if you also suffer with IBS.
As a general rule, foods high in so-called Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, or ‘FODMAPS’ cause more gas. A low FODMAP diet is therefore advised for women with a prolapse that is made worse by gas. This can be a complex diet to get used to, but could help you significantly. You can read more about the FODMAP diet on the IBS Network website.
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