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Potty Training for Adults May Cure Constipation

Tim Boyer's picture

Approximately one of every three Americans suffers from painful constipation that significantly lessens their quality of life. However, according to researchers at the Georgia Health Sciences University, a cure for many individuals’ constipation may be as simple as undergoing a 3-month long potty training therapy for adults.

While having a normal bowel movement comes naturally for most, identifying the cause of constipation when it does occur is not so simple due to the fact that it is a multifactorial disorder comprised of multiple symptoms. Basically, constipation encompasses bouts of infrequent bowel movements, excessive straining, hard stools typically described as like “trying to pass a brick,” and sensations of incomplete voiding of urine.

In many cases, constipation results from medications, aging, stress, eating a poor diet and a lack of exercise. But for others, the cause of constipation can be due to a miscommunication between the brain and the bowels. According to Dr. Satish Rao, Chief of the Medical College of Georgia Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Georgia Health Sciences University and founding Director of the GHS Digestive Health Center, that miscommunication can be remedied through biofeedback techniques toward teaching people with constipation to relearn when to push and when to relax. Constipation of this type is referred to medically as “dyssnergic defecation.”

Dyssnergic defecation causes feelings of bloating, fatigue and cloudy, muddled thinking that Dr. Rao believes is a result of forcibly keeping waste in your system rather than letting it out.

“These are individuals who cannot poop or can’t poop effectively. In the process of pooping, they retain their own stools or they push their stool back into their system without realizing what they are doing,” says Dr. Rao.

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Part of the problem of pooping for some may be neuro-physiological due to having a rectum that is either too sensitive or not sensitive enough to the presence of stool. To treat this type of cause, patients are sometimes provided with an inflatable balloon device that is inserted in the rectum to try to improve their sensitivity to the presence of stool in the rectum.

According to a news release by Georgia Health Sciences University, another method of helping constipated individuals is the use of pressure probes that tell a physician when a patient is pushing, and whether they are also squeezing the anal sphincter muscles at the same instant and thereby preventing passage.

“They are unaware of what they are doing. We have to reverse the whole process,” says Dr. Rao. “We are teaching them the proper techniques of posture: how to sit, breathe, how to coordinate the pelvic floor muscles and anal muscles to expel stool. This is very natural to many of us, we do it without even thinking, but for these individuals it’s all wrong.”

Using biofeedback techniques, Dr. Rao and his staff teach patients how to effectively time and control their pushing and relaxing during a bowel movement. The treatment/training involves three months of short, biweekly office visits and multiple daily 20-minute practice sessions using a battery-powered biofeedback device at home. According to Dr. Rao, 85 percent of his patients experience success with the training.

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: Georgia Health Sciences University News