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Are you pooing properly?

Wednesday 15 November 2017

A picture of a toilet with a cartoon drawing of a poo giving a double thumbs up.
You might think it should come naturally, but there are correct ways to do a number 2.

We’ve already spoken about whether your poo is normal, but what about the way you’re doing it?

The internet is full of articles telling you how to poo better, and products you can buy to help you do just that ($1000 toilet paper anyone?). But is there really anything wrong with just going along with nature’s call? Or should you be putting more thought into your movements?

While everyone’s toilet habits will differ slightly, there are some general pointers for making sure you’re doing your #bestpoo. We’ve broken down some popular pooing myths to help separate the fact from the fiction.

When nature calls

Not pooing when you feel like you need to isn’t great for your body and can have some unpleasant consequences.

One of the problems with holding poo in is that it can start to dry out and become hard to pass. If you don’t pass this poo and things begin to back up, it can cause chronic constipation.

Your digestive system is an ever-working beast. If you get really constipated, your body will start to leak watery poo out around the hard poo blocking your passage, a process called overflow diarrhoea. Things can get even worse from here: if you’re chronically constipated you could wind up with an unpleasant medical condition like faecal impaction or a gut obstruction, which will send you to hospital.  

If all that sounds a bit too nasty, then consider this the bottom line: when you feel the need to poo, visit the loo.

Should you squat or should you sit?

There’s been a lot of noise in recent years about whether squatting on the toilet is better for you than sitting. But what does science say about pooping posture?

There haven’t yet been a lot of large scale studies investigating squatting versus sitting. What we do know is that there’s an optimal body position to be in when doing your business if you’re taking a seat.

The Continence Foundation of Australia recommends:

  • sitting with your knees higher than your hips (use a foot stool or other flat, stable object if necessary)
  • lean forward and put your elbows on your knees
  • relax and bulge out your stomach
  • straighten your spine.

Hovering above the toilet seat in a squat can be hard on the pelvic floor muscles, whether you’re doing a number one or number two. So if you’re taking a seat, it’s best to commit to it.  

A diagram showing the correct toilet sitting position, with elbows on knees, back straight, stomach relaxed and feet propped up on a footstool.

Taking too long

Are you a toilet reader? Do you like to check your phone in the privacy of the loo?

It turns out that sitting for too long on the toilet can lead to excess time spent straining, which can put pressure on the rectum and cause haemorrhoids. Haemorrhoids are very common and treatable, but they’re also unpleasant, so if you can avoid them, you should. Avoid distracting yourself while on the loo – once your business is done it’s time to clear out.

Another cause of haemorrhoids is regularly straining too hard to pass poo or being constipated. If you’re sitting and straining to go for longer than a few minutes, it’s best to leave the toilet and try again a little later. If you think you’re constipated, visit your GP or pharmacist for advice on getting things moving.

Proper paper practices

Some of us scrunch, others may fold, but when it comes to using toilet paper, there are some technicalities to keep in mind. Women should always wipe from front to back, to help avoid urinary tract infections. And if you’ve got haemorrhoids, it’s better to gently pat the area, rather than wipe.

A young woman sits on the toilet, we see her knees and legs, holding her phone.

Wash your hands

Do you wash your hands after using the toilet? Do you really?

A 2016 study of over 100,000 people in Europe found that 62% of men and 40% of women sometimes skip handwashing after going to the bathroom.

Washing your hands can help prevent the spread of debilitating diseases like e-coli and the flu, so it’s important to get into the habit.

Wash your hands properly by following the steps below:

  • wet your hands first
  • use soap and lather all over your hands and in-between fingers for 20 seconds, or the time it takes to hum ‘Happy Birthday’ twice
  • rinse well
  • dry your hands on a clean towel or with an air dryer.
Last updated: 15 November 2017