Kiddie books taught us that everyone poops, but we all know that not everyone likes to talk about it. Still, whether you're concerned about seeing a weird color in the bowl or are straining to drop a deuce, you've probably found yourself pondering poo questions at least a few times in your life.
So Prevention Magazine rounded up the most pressing issues affecting readers and asked medical experts to weigh in on all your crappiest quandaries—pun intended.
1. Why can't I empty my bowels in one go? It may be because your stools aren't soft enough, says Deborah A. Fisher, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine and member of the American Gastroenterological Association. "The usual reason people are having difficulty is because they're having hard stools, and that's usually related to what they're eating and drinking," she says. "If you're having a lot of straining or constipation, it's very much lifestyle-related."
The most important factor to pay attention to is how much fluid you're getting. "Being dehydrated will make your stools harder and can make them harder to expel," says Fisher. "The other thing is [adding] fiber—bulking agents pull more fluid into [your stool] and make it easier to expel. And then activity—if you're more sedentary, you become more constipated."
2. Is there a correct way to poop? Are you an infomercial junkie? Then you may already be doing things right and using a Squatty Potty to raise your legs while you're on the porcelain throne. Research has shown that sitting with a tighter angle between your thigh and your pelvis (i.e. a squatting position) is a better way to relieve yourself, says Patricia Raymond, MD, a gastroenterologist in Virginia Beach, VA. "That change in the angle helps to give people a better pelvic floor push," she says. You don't have to spring for some expensive gadget—a regular footstool or a stack of books works just as well.
Also, hate to break it to you, but bathroom time is not your chance to catch up on all your unread e-mails. "The important thing is not to be sitting on the commode for long periods of time," says Fisher. This can actually increase your risk of hemorrhoids or make existing ones worse.
3. I get constipated sometimes, but eating more fiber makes me gassy. Are there other ways to maintain regularity?
Fisher points out that not all fiber is created equal—the synthetic kind (found in anti-constipation products like Metamucil) may actually be a better option than the naturally occurring type. That's because synthetic fiber (like psyllium husk) absorbs water in your intestines and is able to pass through your system easily. Fruits and veggies need to be broken down by your intestines (which is what leads to a case of the farts), but synthetic fiber can pass right on through without being broken down.
>> Read more: 7 High-Fiber Breakfasts To Power You Through To Lunch
Water is a key part of keeping yourself on schedule, says Fisher. And if you're taking a fiber product, it's even more important to guzzle H2O, "because otherwise you get a concrete brick in your colon and you feel worse, not better," she says.
Raymond also provides a great excuse for asking someone to pass the bread basket next time you're out to dinner. "Some patients who are constipated may benefit from adding extra oil to their diet," she says. "It actually enhances your bowel movements and is a lovely way to take a laxative—to enjoy some good bread from your local grocery store and dip it in olive oil with spices."
4. Is it normal to poop only two or three times a week? Unless you're regularly running to the toilet screaming (you know, like in that dress-fitting scene in Bridesmaids), the frequency of your bathroom routine is likely totally fine. "Normal is a really wide variety," says Raymond. "Normal is actually recorded as three times a day to three times a week."
Fisher puts it this way: "Commercials over the years have made it seem that if you don't have a daily bowel movement you're at best un-American, and at worst really sick, and that's really not true. Figure out what's normal for you."
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