The idea of ‘learning how to use the toilet’ might sound a bit strange to you. After all, going to the toilet is one of the first things that babies do! However, a lifetime of bad habits can add up, wreaking havoc on your bowels, intestines and colorectal health. Straining, pressure, and failing to empty the bowels and bladder completely can all have terrible consequences on your health.
We have compiled a handy guide that will help you learn all about the health risks of poor toilet habits, and how you can prevent or overcome these problems.
Why Is It Important You Go To The Toilet Properly?
One of the biggest problems that can result from incorrect toileting habits is chronic constipation. A small percentage of people also develops serious incontinence issues as a result of chronic constipation, and require heavy incontinence products. Would you believe that this potentially life-altering issue is often caused by something as simple as the common toilet seat? It’s true. For many people who suffer with abnormal bowel movement frequency, the principal cause is an obstructive recto-anal angle.
Simply put – they are putting too much pressure on their colon and bowels by sitting on the toilet.
For many years, health professionals in a variety of fields including proctology, urology and general practice have identified the potential hazards of the modern toilet. They overwhelmingly agree that elevating your feet and knees during defecation is a healthier method and prevents some serious problems.
5 Common Problems that Result from Sitting on the Toilet
Are you constipated? Even if you feel rather regular, those who have fewer than three bowel movements per seven days are considered constipated. This amounts to more than one million Brits! Does this sound familiar?
You might not even realise that you are constipated in the first place. Your bowel eliminates more waste from your body than any other organ, but for many people the bowel is compromised. It is estimated that 4 out of 10 people are constipated at any given time. It’s time to do something about this problem.
Squatting (rather than sitting) on the toilet can help. When your body is in the squatting position, gravity (rather than straining and pushing) will do most of the work. The weight of your torso will gently press against your thighs. This will naturally compress your colon, unkink the entrance to the rectum, and provide the gentle pressure you need to get things moving. Additional pressure from your diaphragm adds to the natural force of gravity.
This common condition occurs when the veins in your lower rectum and anus become swollen and inflamed. The anorectal angle is kinked when you are standing and sitting, which forces us to strain when seated on the toilet. This leads to extensive straining, and incomplete elimination. Over time, haemorrhoids can develop in your anal veins, causing pain and intense itching.
Thankfully, many cases of haemorrhoids will correct themselves over time when a squatting position is adopted on the toilet.
- Colon Diseases
When you eliminate your bowels completely, you avoid the build up of faecal matter in your colon. If not, faeces will build up in your colon, and can lead to many different diseases of the colon, including cancer. In addition to causing these diseases, this build up can also prevent nutrient absorption. This means that over time, you won't absorb the valuable vitamins and minerals in your food, leading to malnutrition.
- Urinary Tract Infections
While most women sit to urinate, studies show that the flow of urine is much stronger and easier to pass when they squat! In addition to this, squatting can help the bladder empty more completely. This is important in order to prevent ‘stale’ or old urine remaining in the bladder, which can then cause a urethritis and urinary tract infections. Studies have shown that squatting while urinating can help reduce the number and severity of urinary tract infections for women who are prone to this malady.
- Pelvic Floor Issues and Problems
Many women suffer from one or more pelvic floor disorders. Pelvic floor disorders can be caused by natural childbirth, aging, obesity and other urinary tract illnesses. While more commonly experienced by women, men too report similar symptoms.
Your pelvic floor is a complex system of ligaments, muscles and connective tissues, and it supports the bladder, rectum, and in women, the uterus and vagina. Pelvic floor disorders can begin to occur when the muscles and nerves in this area are weakened or damaged. This causes the organs to drop (prolapse), leading to constipation and/or faecal and urinary incontinence.
Squatting on the toilet prevents an individual from putting too much pressure on their pelvic floor, ensuring that these muscles and ligaments remain in strong condition. As we age, this becomes more important than ever in order to prevent incontinence and help an individual retain their independence and dignity.
How To Sit On The Toilet
The best way to ‘sit on the toilet’ isn’t to sit at all – it is to squat. Yes, the most natural and healthiest position to defecate is to gently bend the knees and squat when you are on the toilet. After all, countless cultures around the world still utilise squat toilets, realising that it places much less pressure on the colon and bowel. This results in much healthier bowel movements that require less straining and pushing.
This isn’t just anecdotal evidence, either – in fact, there is plenty of empirical evidence that shows that elevating your feet and knees while vacating your bowels in a much healthier way to go.
Sure, the modern Western-style toilet may seem more convenient, but it has a major fault that makes it a less healthy way to go – it forces you to sit down, squeezing your intestines and bowel. Sure, previous generations thought that sitting was the more ‘civilised’ way to defecate, and they even tried to force people in Asia and Africa to adopt their toileting habits. However, now it is clear that our seated toilets aren’t doing us any favours.
The best way to use the toilet is in combination with a small stepping stool. Many brands and companies make these; the best known is the ‘Squatty Potty’ brand. Using a bench or other bolster to elevate your knees and feet can help to alleviate many ailments people suffer in the modern age, including straining, bloating, haemorrhoids and constipation.
Squatting helps to get your body into the correct position for smooth bowel movements. By aligning your anorectal angle correctly, squatting prevents excessive straining. This, in turn, prevents damage done to the colon and other organs associated with elimination.
Don’t hold it in!
The best time to go to the toilet is as soon as you feel the need. When you get into the habit of holding things in, you can end up with chronic constipation. This is because the faecal matter in your bowel and lower intestine can start to dry out, making it harder to pass (something that can also irritate haemorrhoids).
When you feel the urge to poo you should listen to your body and head.
Always remember – wash your hands after you use the toilet! A lot of nasty bacteria is lurking in faecal matter, and it can make you and your family very sick. Wash your hands with warm water and plenty of soap, and dry them thoroughly before leaving the bathroom.
While you might find the subject matter a little embarrassing to talk about, it pays to learn about healthy toileting habits. By sitting on the toilet correctly and learning the ‘best way to go’ you will end up with much healthier habits, and better overall health.