7 Poop Questions You've Been Too Embarrassed To Ask, Answered
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."
Are you an infomercial junkie? Then you may already be doing things right and using a Squatty Potty (; squattypotty.com) to raise your legs while you're on the porcelain throne. 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.
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.
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."
MORE:7 Constipation Remedies Worth Trying When You Just Can't Poop
Unless you're regularly running to the toilet screaming (you know, like in that dress-fitting scene inBridesmaids), 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."
If it's not your time of the month, blood in the toilet bowl can definitely be worrisome. And there could be a bunch of reasons why it's there. "Hemorrhoids are probably the most common cause of visible rectal bleeding," says Raymond. "That said, I'm in a group of five gastroenterologists, and every 6 months we diagnose someone in their 20s, 30s, or 40s with rectal cancer who's been blowing off bright red rectal bleeding as being hemorrhoids for sometimes over a year. [If that's happening] you need a sigmoidoscopy [a colon exam by a flexible tube] to make sure that there's nothing significant [going on] and that it's just hemorrhoids." Basically, if you're noticing bleeding often, especially in the toilet bowl and not just on the paper, get to a doctor stat to make sure it's not a more serious issue.
MORE:What To Do If You Spot Blood In One (Or More) Of These 5 Bodily Fluids
Video: How to Hold in Your Poop in Most Embarrassing Situations
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