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Barbara Bradley Bolen, Ph.D.

Bowel Habits and Life Demands

By February 6, 2013

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Professionally, I wear two hats. One hat is that of clinical psychologist treating individual patients who have a wide variety of issues. My other hat, of course, is that of being your Guide to IBS. I tend not to be very good at self-promotion, so sometimes one of my patients will Google a question about digestive health and be amazed when my name pops up.

This happened recently when a patient of mine was looking for ideas as to what foods to eat to help ease constipation. The good thing is that this opened up the discussion about the chronic constipation he has struggled with for many years. As we discussed his struggles, it became clear that his early morning routine may have contributed significantly to the problem. His job demanded that he leave his house early and face a long commute on public transportation. For years, he ignored urges to defecate as there was no convenient place or time for him to have a bowel movement.

This is quite a thorny problem. What does one do when the demands of life interfere with the needs of one's body? There is no easy answer to this, except the recognition that when we ignore our bodies we do that at a risk to our health. And, sometimes unwanted symptoms serve as the wake-up call that changes in our priorities need to be made. For this patient, we discussed my tips for easing constipation, then took a look at the morning problem. He doesn't have a lot of flexibility, but was going try to get up a little earlier and speak to his boss to see if there was some flexibility in terms of work hours.

This story may prompt some of you to look at your life and your bowel habits. I know that for many of you, your bowel habits are just haywire. However, it wouldn't hurt to make an assessment as to whether the demands of your life are playing a role in your IBS and then try to do whatever you can to prioritize the needs of your body. This is not always easy, but sometimes you can find some wiggle room for better self-care.

To learn more about establishing better bowel habits, see:

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February 18, 2013 at 10:40 pm
(1) flipfleury says:

I have used bowel retraining to help relieve my chronic constipation problems for he last 2 years and found it to be the most helpful method to combating my constipation problems. I now move my bowels at least once a day in the morning before I leave for work in the morning or church on Sunday mornings. Incorporating slow deep breathing exercises while on the toilet helps me to relax and make it easier to move my bowels without pain from straining. If I hadn’t taken the steps on my own to combat this painful lifelong condition I would still be struggling every day to move my bowels with lots of pain and agony just trying to do something most people do without any problem.

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