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Neha Patel, M.D. Answers Questions On Gastrointestinal Disorders

Neha Patel, M.D. Answers Questions On: Gastrointestinal Disorders

Are some gastrointestinal disorders specific to women?

Yes. Because the female reproductive system is near the GI tract, factors related to reproduction can impact gastrointestinal function or weaken the pelvic floor. 

For example, childbirth can result in pelvic organ prolapse, which can affect women’s bowel movements and lead to issues such as constipation or fecal incontinence later in life. (Urinary incontinence, on the other hand, is a urogynecology issue.)

In addition, for reasons that aren’t clear, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more prevalent among women than men.

How is pelvic floor dyssynergia related to constipation?

Pelvic floor dyssynergia – also called dyssynergic defecation – refers to a lack of coordination among the pelvic floor muscles that are necessary to effectively move the bowels. The muscles don’t contract and relax normally.

Men and women with pelvic floor dyssynergia may experience constipation or the sensation that they haven’t emptied their bowels.

How is pelvic floor dyssynergia treated?

Physical therapy and biofeedback can be very effective in treating pelvic floor dyssynergia. A number of studies have shown that these treatments can help patients retrain the pelvic floor muscles to perform the appropriate actions that effectively move the bowels.

As innate and natural as it seems, having a bowel movement is a complicated mechanism, and a number of things – not all of which we can control – have to happen in order for that to be successful. 

Thankfully for our patients who have this condition, the GI team collaborates with a number of UT Southwestern physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists who are specially trained to treat pelvic floor disorders such as dyssynergia.

Do Kegel exercises help with pelvic floor disorders?

Kegel exercises can be excellent for strengthening the muscles that support the pelvic floor, but they’re not necessarily the answer to all problems in the pelvis.

They can definitely help with incontinence, but can sometimes actually cause problems, especially for people who suffer from constipation.

Is occasional rectal bleeding a cause for concern?

Although bleeding when you go to the bathroom is related to hemorrhoids in 98 or 99 percent of cases, for 1 or 2 percent of people it’s an indication of something serious, such as colon cancer.

Even if it’s an occasional or isolated incident, people who experience rectal bleeding should always see their doctor.