6 Bathroom Habits You Should Break Up With
Happy New Year everyone! It's been a while since I've written on this blog, but I am making it one of my New Year's goals to post here at least 2 times per month.
This week's topic I want to cover is bathroom habits you should break up with! I was having a conversation with one of my clients this week about bathroom
habits after she mentioned that one of the exercises I was having her do will make hovering over the toilet easier. She was surprised to learn that it's not actually good for you to hover over the toilet while you go to the bathroom. So I wanted to share some other common bathroom habits I hear that I, as a pelvic floor physical therapist, would like for you to stop.
Here we go:
Hovering over the toilet. Ok, so I understand why people do this one. It's not fun to go into a public bathroom, pull down your pants to do your business, and then sit in someone's pee. Yuck! But here's why I don't want you to do it: when you sit down to go to the bathroom, the muscles in your legs, hips, and pelvic floor are able to relax. This allows for you to pee or poop freely, because those muscles aren't getting in the way. If you're hovering over the toilet, your muscles cannot relax. This means that it's harder for you to go to the bathroom which can lead to a few different things: you not being able to fully empty your bladder or bowels, you having to strain against your pelvic floor muscles to go to the bathroom, and also your body getting used to releasing pee and/or poop in a semi-squatted position. We don't want your body to get used to releasing pee/poop in this position, because you don't want to leak pee/poop when you don't want to (ie when you're squatting down to pick something up). So yes, sitting in someone else's pee is gross, and I wouldn't recommend doing that either. You can take a couple of extra seconds to wipe the seat down with some toilet paper, and even create a barrier between you and the toilet seat with some toilet paper. Then sit down, do your business, and get on with your day.
Power peeing. What is power peeing? It's when you sit down (or stand up for my friends with a penis) to pee and push your pee out to hurry up and get it over with. Again, I understand why you do this one. Sometimes you are in a rush and you need to get done quickly. The kids are in the living room yelling for you or you are in a rush to get something else done. But hear me out: your bladder is what is supposed to push out the pee from your body. The bladder is made up of muscle tissue that contracts when it's time to go to the bathroom and your pelvic floor relaxes to get out of the way. But when you start pushing or bearing down to pee faster, you're actually messing with the way the bladder and brain work together and making it harder for the bladder to do it's job! Instead: sit down, take a couple of deep breaths, and relax your body - bonus points if you put your feet up on a Squatty Potty! This will help your pelvic floor relax and will allow the bladder to do the job it's supposed to do.
Holding your pee for too long. Moms, teachers, and nurses: I'm looking at you here! You guys are notorious for holding your pee WAY too long. But why does it matter? I briefly mentioned above that your brain and bladder work together for the process of going to the bathroom. Without getting too science-y here, I want to explain a bit. Remember how I said that the bladder is made up of muscle? Well as you know, muscles stretch and in the walls of the bladder are receptors that can sense how much the muscles in the bladder are stretching. It's the job of those receptors to tell the brain when the bladder is starting to get full. Those receptors send the message up to the brain that the bladder is starting to get full and it's about time to go to the bathroom. We have a choice then, we can ignore that message and tell the bladder to calm down or we can immediately go to the bathroom. Over time, if we tell the bladder to calm down too often and hold our pee for too long, those receptors can get less sensitive to the filling of the bladder and won't relay the message as well to the brain. This can lead to things like UTI's, urinary retention, and leaking pee. So how often should you pee? About every 3-4 hours or about 6-8 times per day. Obviously this is a range, and some people are on the high or low end of normal. But you should try to not allow yourself to go more than 4 hours without emptying your bladder (except at night when you are asleep).
Straining to poop. Just like power peeing, you shouldn't be straining to poop. Your intestines also have muscles in their lining to move food (and subsequently poop) through them and to the rectum and anus to exit the body. By pushing and straining to poop, you are putting extra strain on your pelvic floor and the surrounding tissues in your pelvis. This can lead to difficulty with eliminating poop, hemorrhoids, and pain in the pelvic region. Difficulty with going to the bathroom because of constipation? Make sure you're getting enough water to drink, eating enough fiber, and getting your body moving. A Squatty Potty can also help to relax the pelvic floor to allow for pooping to be easier. Seeing a pelvic floor therapist (such as myself) is also highly recommended for issues with constipation.
Going to the bathroom "just in case". Ever been on a road trip and you make a stop to get gas? What does everyone do? Bail out of the car to go to the bathroom (even if they weren't really feeling like they need to) because who knows when you'll stop again and maybe you'll need to go to the bathroom before that next stop. That's what is called "just in case" peeing. So why is "just in case" peeing a bad thing? As I mentioned before, the bladder and brain communicate with one another when it's time to go to the bathroom. The bladder says, "I'm getting full." The brain says, "Ok, hold on, we need to make it to a bathroom first." You get to the bathroom and the brain says, "Alright, we're here. Do your thing," and the bladder contracts and you pee. So when you go to the bathroom before you feel like you need to go, it messes with that communication between the bladder and the brain. The bladder starts thinking it needs to empty before it's actually full and can create what we call urinary urgency. What to do instead: wait until you actually feel the need to go to the bathroom. There are public bathrooms everywhere. You will (more than likely) not be stranded without a place to go to the bathroom.
Rushing to the bathroom. You have that "I gotta go" feeling, so what do you do? Run off to the bathroom. Do the potty dance as your unbuttoning your pants. Slam your bottom down on the toilet. What if I told you that rushing to the bathroom is actually making that "gotta go" feeling worse? By rushing to the bathroom, you are reinforcing to your brain that that urge to go to the bathroom is an emergent situation. And it may feel like it is! Especially if you have a history of leaking if you don't go to the bathroom soon enough. So what should you do when you have that "gotta go now" feeling? Here's what I tell my clients:
Stop in your tracks. Don't run off to the bathroom.
Take a couple of deep breaths.
Do a couple of quick contractions of your pelvic floor. (this helps relax the muscles in the bladder)
Distract yourself with something. Pinch yourself gently. Visualize relaxing the whole body.
Once the urge passes, WALK, don't rush, to the bathroom
Are you surprised by any of the bathroom habits that I would like for you to give up?
Do you do any of these habits and didn't even realize that it could be impacting your pelvic floor?
Did you know that as a pelvic floor physical therapist I help with these kinds of issues (and so much more)?
If you are having trouble with going to the bathroom, whether it's too often, not often enough, you are constipated, or you have pain with going to the bathroom, pelvic floor therapy can help!
If you are interest in learning more about how pelvic floor therapy can help you, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a phone call at 940-268-4365.
I hope that you will save this blog for later for yourself as well as sharing it with a friend or family member that you feel this information would be helpful for.