The Hidden Ways the Holidays Affect Your Pelvic Floor Health

Why The Holidays May Not Be So Happy When It Comes to Your Pelvic Floor (And What You Can Do About It)

As I write this, the holiday season is just around the corner. Time for friends, family, traveling and good food!

But the holiday season is also a time of stress, and stress can have a significant effect on your pelvic floor. People who are stressed “may unknowingly tense their pelvic floor muscles — similar to people who clench their teeth in response to stress,” the Washington Post notes. During the heart of the pandemic, Today covered how stress led to higher levels of pelvic pain, bladder troubles, constipation and painful sex for some.

Then there’s all that sitting — in the car, on the train, on the plane, at your family’s house. Too much can cause a tightening of muscles in the pelvic floor and decreased blood to pelvic floor tissues, according to Oprah Daily. 

If you already have the pelvic floor disorder known as urge incontinence, the last thing you want is to increase your time in the bathroom. Unfortunately, drinks with caffeine and alcohol can make you urinate more. Yes, there might be some trouble a-brewing in those delicious cocktails, coffees and teas!

And what about the food? The holidays, with its focus on dairy, meats and refined carbohydrates like white bread, mac and cheese and sweets, can encourage constipation. Chronic constipation seems to affect those with pelvic floor dysfunction in large numbers – up to 50 percent of people with PFD have it, according to the Mayo Clinic. Furthermore, constipation can cause pelvic floor dysfunction. (Traveling can also lead to constipation from reasons ranging from not drinking enough water to moving less to switching up your routine.)

So what can you do?

Some tips:

  • If you know a family member will cause stress, it’s okay to say that you won’t be able to make the event or to leave early.
  • It’s also okay to say you aren’t up for traveling if you sense it will trigger a flare. You can always postpone a visit until you are doing better or meet somewhere that requires less traveling for you.
  • And it’s okay to ask a host what she is planning to serve ahead of time and if some substitutions or additions can be made. Festive foods that support healthy bowel movements include sweet potatoes and everybody’s favorite, pumpkin. (Ideally, you should be going daily to a few times a week.)
  • Don’t let your physical therapy sessions slide! The holidays are a busy time of year and you may feel less inclined to go to physical therapy, but it’s more important than ever so you can feel your best. If your therapist is on vacation, ask if she can recommend a sub. (And if you’re in the New York area, I hope you’ll consider Revitalize Physical Therapy for your pelvic floor physical therapy needs!)

During the holidays, we are urged to be kind to all the folks we come across, but let’s not forget to be kind to ourselves!