Going to the toilet is one of aspects of our daily routine we take for granted. After all, how hard can sitting on the loo, going to the loo and getting up off the loo really be?
But turns out there are some fundamental mistakes we're making when visiting the bathroom and they could be having a pretty big impact on our down-there health.
According to a recent survey, Brits spend an average of three and a half hours on the toilet every single week.
You'd think, therefore, that spending so much time on the porcelain throne should make us well versed in the toilet best practices.
But while it might seem a simple task, there's actually a long list of bathroom errors we're all probably making.
Read on for some facts that will change the way you use the toilet forever.
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Until we invented the toilet, humans opened their bowels by squatting down, like other animals.
"Since then, while we might feel more civilised, we've been causing ourselves some serious health problems," explains health and wellbeing expert Stephanie Taylor, founder of StressNoMore.
"That's because our muscles around our rectum control whether our bodies are in continence or elimination mode (whether we poo or not). When sitting down the anorectal angle is kinked, and the puborectalis muscle chokes the rectum, keeping faeces inside."
So, sitting on the loo keeps our bodies in continence mode and makes it difficult to eliminate waste.
"If you don’t get rid of all faeces, this can cause constipation, which can lead to bowel disease or appendicitis," she says.
Instead, Taylor suggests squatting and lifting our knees up higher than our hips.
"This way the anorectal angle is straightened and the puborectalis muscle releases the rectum making pooping much easier," she adds.
Solution: Consider buying a toilet stool, which helps you achieve the best squatting position and puts your muscles into elimination mode for a healthy bowel movement without excessive straining.
Staying on the toilet for too long
While you might enjoy sitting on the toilet, reading a magazine or scrolling through social media, this extra time spent on the throne could actually be damaging the rectum.
"When you sit there, with your anus at a different level than the rest of your bottom half, this puts extra pressure on the veins in your lower rectum, which could eventually lead to haemorrhoids that can be uncomfortable and result in rectal bleeding," Taylor explains.
Solution: Avoid sitting on the toilet for too long at a time.
"Instead, only sit for as long as you feel the urge to go and, if nothing is happening, get up and do something else," suggests Taylor.
According to a study, it should only take five minutes to open your bowels, and if you have been sitting for longer than 15 minutes with no bowel movement, this might indicate that you are constipated.
Straining when you go
Harder stools can be a pain, especially when you're forced to strain, as this puts pressure on the muscles and blood vessels making them swell.
"The pressure can lead to painful haemorrhoids (piles) inside and outside the anus, that if faced with more hard bowel movements, can hit a blood vessel and result in rectal bleeding," Taylor says.
In addition, straining can result in anal fissures – a small tear in the large intestine near the anus, which can be itchy, painful and result in bleeding. Or, in the worst cases, rectal prolapse, where your rectum drops through your anus. Yikes!
Solution: If you’re straining, it’s likely due to constipation. "Try upping your fibre intake to loosen your bowels and if the problem persists, visit a doctor for advice and potentially medication," Taylor suggests.
Using scented paper or wipes
You might think that using toilet paper or wipes that smell nice is more hygienic and helps keep things feeling fresh down there, but actually scented paper and wipes aren't that good for your intimate health.
"If used too frequently, the chemicals in scented wipes can irritate the skin around your anus, causing it to itch or burn," Taylor warns. "Otherwise known as ‘pruritus ani’ or ‘polished anus syndrome’, experts suggest this affects at least 5% of the population."
Solution: Ensure you clean your anus gently using only plain white, unscented toilet paper and check that the area is completely dry before putting any underwear back on.