Blog • November 5, 2018

Normal bladder and bowel health by Krista O'Dell DPT

Who knew there was a “normal” for bladder and bowel health? Keeping a bladder and bowel diary for a few days is a great starting point to track and see if you have healthy habits.

Guidelines for normal for bladder health

Going to the bathroom 5-7 times a day about 2-4 hours apart. Sleeping through the night without going to the bathroom with the exceptions of being over 65 or pregnant (then 1-2x is considered normal). If nighttime frequency is an issue, limiting fluids two hours before bed may be beneficial. When you do go to the bathroom urine should flow easily without feeling the need to strain.

Healthy Bowel Habits

Poor bathroom habits can create pelvic floor and bladder issues.

  • First, you need to sit on the toilet (even a public toilet!) as you are not able to allow your pelvic floor to relax if you hover.
  • Second, avoiding the just-in-case bathroom trips as this can lead to increased urinary frequency. This teaches your bladder you have to go to the bathroom before your bladder is full.
  • Finally, avoid using the restroom too  infrequently. Don’t wait over 4 hours.

Goals for healthy bowel habits vary, but may include achieving a normal frequency for “going” at least once to three times a day. Normal consistency is Type 3 through Type 5 on the Bristol Stool Scale (pictured left).

When you are having a bowel movement, you want to sit on the toilet and lean forward with feet positioned on a step stool so your knees are higher than your hips. This position helps your pelvic floor muscles relax to allow for easier evacuation of stool. You also want to avoid bearing down where you hold your breath. Try not to delay an urge to defecate, even in public! Try to plan time to sit on the toilet around the same time each day. If you are not successful after several minutes, get up and move around and try later.

It is important to consider fluid intake and nutrition as well when discussing bladder and bowel health. Water is important in helping prevent not only constipation but in making sure urine isn’t too concentrated, which irritates the bladder lining.

When urine becomes too concentrated, it can cause the muscles in the bladder wall to spasm making you feel like you need to go the bathroom. The goal for fluid intake is a least 32-64oz per day, with at least two thirds of that being water.

Fiber is another important nutrient to consider as decreased fiber intake can contribute to constipation. Fiber is a term applied to carbohydrates that cannot be digested. It is found in all plants eaten as part of a healthy diet. Learn more about this important part of your diet by taking this quiz, based on information from Harvard School of Public Health.

If you have any concerns about your bowel and bladder health, talk to your primary care provider about whether or not physical therapy might be beneficial for you. Fort HealthCare’s Therapy & Sport Centers have specialized providers on staff that can help you.