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High-fibre diet eases constipation

A gradual increase in fibre intake may ease constipation in women suffering from pelvic floor disorders.

High-fibre diet eases constipation

A gradual increase in fibre intake may ease constipation in women suffering from pelvic floor disorders. Pelvic floor disorders refer to problems with a woman's pelvic organs, namely the uterus, bladder and rectum, and the muscles and connective tissue that support these. Among the most common of these are incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, where weakened muscles and supporting tissue allow one or more pelvic organs to drop down and protrude into the vagina. Constipation and straining is thought to worsen, or possibly contribute to, pelvic organ prolapse. To examine the effect of high-fibre intake on constipation, American researchers studied 41 women for six weeks. These women were aged between 33 and 77 years and had come to the centre for a pelvic floor disorder. A total 18 women had a primary problem of pelvic organ prolapse, while the rest had conditions such as incontinence and overactive bladder. All had suffered chronic constipation for at least three out of the past 12 months. Over the six-week study, the women added a high-fibre cereal to their diets, gradually increasing their daily serving until they reached a fibre intake of 28 grams per day. The recommended amount of fibre in women older than 50 years is 20–25 grams per day. At the end of the study, the women generally reported improvements in their constipation and symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating. And their average laxative use declined from three times per week to about once a week. However, six women had to drop out of the study because the added fibre caused intolerable symptoms like gas and stomach pain. Thus, women suffering from constipation should gradually add fibre to their diets to reduce the odds of such side effects. The findings indicate that a high-fibre diet could help prevent pelvic organ prolapse or keep it from progressing.
Obstetrics & Gynecology,
April 2008
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