6 Nourishing Foods That Support Pelvic Floor Health (and 6 that don’t)
While nothing you can eat will cause or fix pelvic floor dysfunction, you can support your healing with nourishing foods and eliminate the foods that cause pelvic inflammation. Here are 6 nourishing foods that support pelvic floor health and 6 that don’t.
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When you’re thinking of supporting your health with food, I bet the last question you ask is, “What foods support the health of my pelvic floor?”
Most often, people — and women in particular — are interested in the sort of foods or diets that are going to result in weight loss or better gut health or clearer skin. (None of which are bad, by the way.) 🙂
Still, the more I study and learn about the pelvic floor, the more I am convinced that it is just as much a part of our overall health as a healthy microbiome or ideal weight.
Before we dive into foods that support pelvic floor health, let’s just discuss the pelvic floor itself for a moment.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a system of muscles, tendons, and connective tissues. It stretches from front to back, from the pelvic bone to the tailbone and from side to side — hip bone to hip bone.
It is the group of muscles and tissues that hold and support your bladder, vagina, ovaries, uterus, urethra, and rectum.
Together, the pelvic floor muscles form a wide sling like a hammock. They extend across the fan-shaped pelvic bone, connecting to the pelvic organs (cervix, uterus, bladder, vagina, urethra, lower rectum) through strong muscle fibers that are further reinforced by fibrous tissue. (Source.)
What happens when the pelvic floor dysfunctions?
The symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction are many and can include any or all of the following:
- urinary frequency, urgency, or incontinence
- fecal incontinence
- the inability to hold in gas
- leakage of urine when sneezing, jumping, running, or coughing,
- pain with sex
- constipation and/or the feeling that you cannot complete a bowel movement
- lower back and/or hip pain
- pain in the genitals
- pressure in the pelvic region or rectum
- muscle spasms
- interstitial cystitis
- pelvic organ prolapse (rectal prolapse, cervical prolapse, bladder prolapse, or uterine prolapse, for example)
- PCOS, endometriosis, adenomyosis, and other diseases of the pelvis
- pain in the pelvic floor when sitting
And while there is nothing on this planet you can eat that will directly cause pelvic floor dysfunction, there is also nothing on the planet you can eat that will directly prevent it either.
Pelvic Floor Reserves
The way my pelvic floor physical therapist describes the pelvic floor is that it has reserves. The definition of “reserves” here being: a supply of a commodity not needed for immediate use, but available if required.
Throughout a woman’s lifetime, she experiences things — like falls or a broken tailbone or a UTI or sexual abuse or childbirth — that deplete the pelvic floor’s reserves. Most of these things simply happen; they’re beyond our control.
They’re part of living life.
Unknowingly, we begin depleting the reserves of their pelvic floor in childhood. Think of every time you fell off your bike or fell down rollerskating or fell off a horse.
Since childhood, how many times have you slipped and fallen in an icy parking lot or fallen down stairs?
When you had babies, did you tear or have an episiotomy?
Do you have poor posture or work in a job that require a lot of sitting or heavy lifting?
See? There are so many real-life situations that we all go through and can’t avoid that deplete the reserve of our pelvic floors.
And then one day, we might notice leaking urine when we sneeze. At first, we don’t think anything of it because, that’s common, right? (Hint: just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s healthy.)
Over time, if the pelvic floor reserves aren’t restored, more dysfunction occurs, usually resulting in more and more severe symptoms.
Before we dive into foods that support pelvic floor health, let me say this:
I’ve talked with my gynocologist, urologist, 2 pelvic floor physical therapists, and my chiropractor. All of them have said that EVERY WOMAN CAN BENEFIT FROM PELVIC FLOOR PHYSICAL THERAPY.
Pelvic floor PT is how we build up our reserves again.
But, food can help too.
Barring things beyond our control — like falling off your bike or perineal tearing with childbirth or sexual trauma — our bodies are only able to function as optimally as we fuel them to function.
Therefore, what we’re eating either supports the healing of our pelvic floor, or it causes more inflammation, leading to more symptoms and worse dysfunction.
6 Nourishing Foods That Support Pelvic Floor Health
Anti-inflammatory foods are the best foods to support pelvic floor health. Because pain is such a common symptom of PFD and pain is a sign of inflammation, it stands to reason that the best foods for the pelvic floor are those which are naturally anti-inflammatory.
This doesn’t mean you have to put yourself on an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). But, maybe you do. If your body is showing other signs of chronic inflammation — such as eczema or joint pain — you really might need the full AIP diet (which removes all grains, dairy, eggs, nuts, sweeteners except honey, and nightshades).
However, it’s worth trying to eat or eat more of the nourishing foods that support pelvic floor health. (And removing the foods that are not supporting pelvic floor health.)
These foods are not a cure-all for PFD. You still need to do pelvic floor PT or whatever your doctor has you doing to relieve and heal your pelvic pain.
So, what are the nourishing foods that support pelvic floor health?
#1 — Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids
DHA and EPA are the components of Omega-3 fatty acids that we’re trying to get here. These
In a recent study, 125 people who were taking NSAIDs for neck and back pain were given fish oil, which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. After 75 days:
- 59% of patients discontinued their use of NSAIDs for pain
- 60% said their overall pain was improved
- 80% stated they were satisfied with the improvement of their pain
- 88% said they would continue to take fish oil
The recommended dosage of Omega-3 for its anti-inflammatory effects is between 2,000 and 3,000 milligrams per day (source).
Just one 6-ounce filet of wild-caught salmon contains this amount!
Other foods and supplements high in Omega-3s:
- flax seeds — about 1,600mg per tablespoon
- wild and sustainably caught albacore tuna — 1,400mg per 3-ounce serving
- anchovies — 1,000 mg per 2-ounce serving
- wild-caught herring — about 1,900mg per 3-ounce serving
- chia seeds — 2,400mg per tablespoon
- Omega-3 fish oil — 1,560mg per teaspoon
- Atlantic mackerel — 6,900mg per cup
- Rosita cod liver oil capsules — 417mg per 3 capsules
Recipes with foods high in Omega-3s:
- Blackened Salmon over Cajun Zoodles
- The Everything Smoothie
- 5-Ingredient Sprouted Seed Truffles
- Green Hippie Juice
#2 — Foods High In Vitamin D (or supplement)
Vitamin D affects skeletal muscle strength and function. Low Vitamin D has been associated with bone and muscle weakness.
Also, as women age, they are more prone to Vitamin D deficiency — and a higher instance of pelvic organ prolapse is noted among older women. 37% of pelvic organ prolapse occurs in women ages 60 to 79, while about half of pelvic organ prolapses occur in women over age 80 (source).
The pelvic floor muscles are believed to be affected by Vitamin D — and a Vitamin D deficiency is more likely to cause pelvic floor muscle or skeletal weakness (source).
The best way to get Vitamin D? Spend some time in the sun! Expose your face, neck, belly, and back to the sun’s rays — and your body will do the rest.
To get Vitamin D from food, eat plenty of:
- wild-caught salmon — 447 IU per 3-ounce portion
- mackerel — 307IU per 3-ounce portion
- wild-caught tuna — 147 IU per 3-ounce portion
- eggs — 41 IU per egg
- cod liver oil — 1,360 IU per tablespoon
You can also supplement with a high quality Vitamin D3. I only use and recommend Perfect Supplements Vitamin D3. (<– Save 10% on my favorite Vitamin D3 with my discount code ALLTHETHINGS.)
Made with 5,000 IU of the cholecalciferol form of vitamin D3 it is the most absorbable and most effective form of Vitamin D.
Recipes high in Vitamin D:
- Crust-less Kale & Cheddar Quiche
- Salmon & Wild Rice Burgers with Garlic-Avocado Aioli
- Egg-Free & Grain-Free Salmon Patties
- Blackened Salmon over Cajun Zoodles
#3 — Foods or Supplements with Quercetin
Quercetin is a flavanoid antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation by down-regulating inflammatory cytokines.
In fact, this 2011 study found that quercetin was helpful for patients with organ-specific complaints (like the bladder) and pelvic floor muscle spasms.
Foods rich in quercetin include broccoli, red onions, peppers, apples, and grapes (source).
You can also supplement with quercetin, however optimal dosage recommendations have not yet been established.
The common oral dosage when supplementing with quercetin is 500mg two times per day (source.)
Recipes with quercetin-rich foods:
- Soaked Gluten-Free Apple Breakfast Cake
- Instant Pot No-Peel Applesauce
- Paleo Maple Apple Cinnamon No-Bake Treats
- Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup
- How To Make Any Blended Soup In The Instant Pot
#4 — Alkaline or Low-Acid Fruits & Veggies
Vegetable fiber is an important part of supporting your pelvic floor health for many reasons, not the least of which is that women with spasming or tight pelvic floor muscles tend toward constipation.
Fruit and vegetable fiber is like balm for your bowels and helps your stool be a soft consistency so it can slide out of your rectum and anus, rather than having to be pushed out.
Alkaline and low-acid fruits and veggies are less likely to irritate the pelvic floor, especially the bladder and urethra, than high-acid produce like lemons, grapefruits, oranges, pineapple, tomatoes, and winter squashes.
Alkaline and low-acid fruits include:
Alkaline and low-acid veggies include:
- green peas
- green beans
- sweet potatoes
Eat twice as many servings of vegetables than fruits each day, and be sure the majority of your fiber intake comes from produce rather than from grains and starches, like bread, oats, and rice.
Some recipes containing low-acid fruits and veggies:
- 5-Ingredient Paleo Breakfast Hash
- Hella Mighty Instant Pot Green Soup
- Keto Instant Pot Clam Chowder
- No Starter Culture Fermented Dill Pickles
- Instant Pot Cauli-tatoes
- Everything Seasoning Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Instant Pot Vegetable Beef Stew
- Instant Pot Spinach-Artichoke Meatball Soup
#5 — Pure Water & Herbal Teas
Not carbonated water. Not flavored water. And not caffeinated tea or coffee. Those can be irritating to the bladder and pelvic floor.
No liquids are better for your hydration, bowel and bladder health, and pelvic floor than pure water and non-caffeinated herbal teas.
And let’s be clear here: most women drink TOO MUCH liquid. Too much liquid intake = more trips to the bathroom. A healthy bladder is one that gives you the urge to pee no more than once every 2 to 3 hours and not at all at night.
If you’re peeing more than that, you are likely drinking too much and/or you likely have pelvic floor dysfunction.
The number of trips you take to the bathroom each day is a good indicator of the health or lack of health of your pelvic floor. In fact, many women’s initial PFD symptoms, including my own, begin with the bladder.
The ideal amount of total liquid to drink per day?
Half your body weight in ounces.
So, if you weigh 150 pounds, your ideal liquid intake would be 75 ounces. This includes all water, tea, coffee, alcoholic and carbonated beverages.
Make sure the water you’re hydrating with is clean, preferably tested well water, spring water, or water that’s been filtered to remove chlorine, fluoride, and heavy metals. I recommend the Berkey water filter system for filtering tap or well water.
Please do not drink water from the tap or water from plastic bottles!
As for anti-inflammatory teas to support your pelvic health, you can use one or a variety of these herbs for your tea:
#6 — Anti-Inflammatory Herbs & Spices
The very things that you add to recipes for flavor and oomph can also be very soothing to the pelvic floor.
I’m talking about anti-inflammatory herbs and spices!
All of the green herbs are foods that support pelvic floor health. I’m talking FRESH green herbs like basil, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, oregano, thyme, sage, and dill.
Hopefully, you’re growing some of these herbs on your windowsill or in pots on your porch. Freshly picked herbs have the highest health benefits.
When you’re cooking, include a wide variety of aromatics and spices, preferably organic, such as:
- turmeric — probably the most famous anti-inflammatory food on Earth right now
- black & cayenne pepper — these are nightshades, so use only if tolerated
Some recipes that incorporate these anti-inflammatory spices:
- Season Anything Spice Mix
- Ginger & Turmeric Kombucha
- Instant Turmeric Bone Broth Latte
- Instant Paleo Golden Milk
- Paleo Anti-Inflammatory Spice Cookies
- Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
6 Foods That Can Cause Pelvic Floor Inflammation
Now, what foods and drinks aren’t supporting pelvic floor health?
Just as there are foods that support pelvic floor health, there are also foods and drinks that don’t support it — and lead to worsening symptoms or further inflammation of the pelvic floor.
#1 — Coffee & Caffeinated Drinks
Caffeine is a diuretic — it will cause you to pee more than you should. Caffeine and coffee are also irritating to the kidney, bladder, and urethra.
Finally, caffeine is a stimulant that will trigger urinary urgency. If you’re feeling the need to urinate and it’s urgent, your pelvic floor muscles are over-working to “hold it”.
If you’re already making too many trips to the bathroom and still drink caffeinated beverages and/or coffee, try cutting them out and see what happens.
You may not only reduce your trips to the bathroom, but you may also reduce or eliminate bladder/urethra sensitivity. Your pelvic floor will thank you!
#2 — Carbonated Beverages
This includes soft drinks, sparkling water, club soda, and even stevia-sweetened sodas like Zevia.
Carbonated drinks tend to “tickle” and over-activate the bladder — again causing irritation, urinary frequency, and/or urgency.
Even if your pelvic floor symptoms aren’t urinary-related, you might be surprised at how caffeine and carbonated beverages are affecting your overall pelvic floor health.
#3 — Alcohol
If you’re dealing with PFD in any form — mild or major — alcohol needs to be out of your diet. Yesterday.
Although alcohol doesn’t directly cause incontinence, it can be a trigger for those who already suffer from incontinence. (Yes, leaking pee when you sneeze, cough, or jump is incontinence, too.)
Alcohol also increases the acidity of your urine. Acidic urine is irritating to the bladder and urethra — and what irritates the bladder irritates the pelvic floor.
Finally, alcohol causes inflammation in the body and impairs the liver’s detoxification process.
#4 — Artificial Sweeteners
We already know they’re bad for us. And, knowing they’re contributing to pelvic floor dysfunction and inflammation is one more reason to add to the long list of reasons why aspartame, sucralose, and other artificial sweeteners need to be OUT of our lives.
Once again, artificial sweeteners are bladder triggers, causing urinary urgency, frequency, incontinence, and irritation to the bladder and urethra.
#5 — Acidic or Spicy Foods
This one’s gonna be hard for many of you, I’m sure. We looooooove our spicy foods, don’t we!
Once again, acidic and spicy foods can be irritating to the bladder — causing your urine to be too acidic or irritation to the bladder lining.
Acidic foods to avoid:
- anything highly processed: frozen dinners, boxed foods, store-bought cakes, sodas
- wheat and bread products
- processed cereals
- caffeinated drinks
- deli meats
You’ll have to experiment with what spicy foods your pelvic floor can handle and which ones trigger pain and inflammation. For women with interstitial cystitis, avoiding all spicy foods may be required.
#6 — Sugar
In this study, women with insulin resistance were studied alongside women without insulin resistance with regard to the relationship between the pelvic floor muscles and insulin resistance.
There was a significant difference in the tone of the pelvic floor muscles and maximal voluntary contraction of the muscles — with the non-insulin resistant women having more pelvic tone and better voluntary contraction than insulin-resistant women.
Even if you’re not insulin resistant, it doesn’t change the fact that pelvic floor dysfunction is caused, even in part, by inflammation.
Sugar leads to inflammation in the body. Period.
If you’re committed to healing and supporting your pelvic floor with your diet, you’re going to have to make the conscious decision to part company with sugar — and probably in ALL forms (including whole sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc.).
I’d love to know what sort of pelvic floor dysfunction you’re dealing with and how you’re supporting your body with foods and supplements!
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