How to Nourish Your Pelvic Floor

By Alyssa Tait

As with any aspect of your health, optimal nutrition is essential to good pelvic floor function, and specifically, to pelvic floor recovery post-childbirth. Remember that any digestive disturbances may reduce assimilation of nutrients, and other co-existing health symptoms will increase your requirement for nutrients.

– Vitamin C is essential to the formation of collagen fibres in tissue recovery. Bioflavonoids help resolve inflammation in damaged tissue, and research has demonstrated benefit in improving hemorrhoids.
Choose foods that suit your body from berries, kiwifruit, capsicum, tomato, and citrus fruit. Try rosehip tea.

– Protein requirements increase dramatically after surgery, such as Caesarean section or perineal stitches, and are higher when inflammation is present. Collagen, which rebuilds tissue, is a protein.
Choose foods that suit you from beef, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs and legumes.

– Magnesium improves strength gains when training a muscle. It is also essential to transmission of nerve impulses to muscle. Try foods that suit your body from nuts, green leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Examine your diet for refined foods. The more refined foods you eat, the less magnesium you are getting.

– Zinc benefits muscles that are being pushed hard. Additionally, trauma to muscles, as may occur during childbirth, increases the requirement of muscles for zinc. The National Nutrition Survey, conducted 1995-96, highlighted that over 50% of Australian women had an intake of zinc that was well below the recommended daily intake. Focus on seafood, wheatgerm and beef.

– Iron is required for the synthesis of an enzyme used in the pathway to forming collagen, the protein structure required to build tissue. Red meat allows by far the most iron and best absorption, but if you don’t eat it, any meat will increase the absorption of iron from vegetable foods. If you are vegetarian, include legumes and nuts every day, try dried fruit, and always eat a vitamin C-rich food with each meal. Avoid tea and coffee with meals, as these inhibit absorption.

– Calcium is central to effective muscle contraction. According to the National Nutrition Survey, many Australian females over the age of 18 are not consuming enough calcium. Especially if you do not eat dairy products, salmon with bones, fortified soy products, fortified orange juice, tahini and almonds are important.

– Intriguingly, a 2004 study (3) showed an association between a lower risk of overactive bladder, which leads to symptoms of urgency and leakage when needing to pass urine, and higher intakes of protein, vitamin D and potassium. Although a cause-effect relationship is not proven, it may be sensible to include foods rich in this nutrients, including oily fish, fresh raw fruit and vegetables and meat or soy products. Additionally, an earlier study by the same authors had shown that lower intakes of vegetables, chicken and bread increase the risk of developing an overactive bladder. If these foods suit your body, it may be worth increasing them.

3 Dallosso HM, McGrother CW, Matthews RJ, Donaldson MMK and The Leicestershire MRC Incontinence Study Group (2004): Nutrient composition of the diet and the development of overactive bladder: a longitudinal study in women. Neurourology and Urodynamics 23: 204-210.