When it comes to going to the bathroom, most people don’t think too deeply about their habits — they have a routine and stick to it. However, because most people aren’t paying attention much to what happens when they’re on the toilet, they may have bathroom habits that can lead to a health issue down the line. Although it’s not the most glamorous topic, it’s important to be aware of what’s going in with your body when you’re in the bathroom, especially since you could be missing some signs that something is off. You could also inadvertently be hurting your health if you’re engaging in some subtle but risky activities.
“Your bathroom habits can give you great insight into the state of both your gastrointestinal and bladder health,” physician Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., tells Bustle. “Sometimes we are not so in tune with the subtle changes to our bowel or bladder habits, but it’s so key to recognize changes and discuss them with your doctor to determine if there is an imminent health risk.”
In addition to releasing waste, it’s also important to pay attention to your hygiene when it comes to washing your hands and brushing your teeth as well. Here are nine bathroom habits to pay attention to that may harm your health, according to experts.
1. Sitting On The Toilet For Longer Than 5 Minutes
It should take no longer than five minutes to have a bowel movement once the urge presents itself. Sitting on the toilet too long and straining to have a bowel movement is harmful to your health, as it can cause hemorrhoids. “[Hemorrhoids] are an abnormal mass of dilated and engorged blood vessels in swollen tissue that occurs internally in the anal canal or externally around the anus,” gastroenterologist Dr. Liz Cruz, tells Bustle. “They may be marked by bleeding, pain, or itching.” If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or having difficulties going to the bathroom, talk with your doctor about it.
2. Not Going When You Have To Go
On the flip side, when nature calls, you should head to the toilet and avoid holding your bowel movements in. “If you hold your bowel movement in instead of releasing it, it can cause severe constipation,” Dr. Cruz says. “Your colon is a muscle — it’s job is to squeeze and absorb as much nutrients and water from your food as it can before it gets released. If you don’t release it when it’s ready, it will continue to stay in the colon and get squeezed, which makes the stool harder and harder.”
3. On & Off Diarrhea & Constipation
Your bowel movements shouldn’t drastically change day by day. “If you are suffering from irregular bowel movements where you are constipated one day and have diarrhea the next, you should get checked out by a gastroenterologist as soon as possible,” Dr. Cruz says. “These abnormal bowel movements are a clear sign that something is not right in the body.” These irregular bowel movements can indicate an imbalanced gut, improper digestion, or even something like Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBS).
4. Peeing Often
Experiencing the urge to pee increasingly often may be a symptom of several conditions. “If you are experiencing burning pain while urinating, in conjunction with urinary frequency, and fever, then you may be dealing with a urinary tract infection which can be treated with oral antibiotics,” Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says. “Diabetes is also another condition that one may experience increased urinary frequency. Polyuria (excessive urination) is one of the classic and often early signs of diabetes that one may note.” If this becomes particularly troublesome, talking with a doctor may be your best bet.
5. Seeing Blood In Your Stool
If you’re in the habit of seeing blood on your toilet paper, you should consult with a doctor. “Blood in your stool may be indicative of a bleed within your gastrointestinal tract,” Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says. Blood from wiping can be due to problems such as hemorrhoids, but blood in your actual stool is something that should be addressed immediately. “Acute GI bleeds have the potential to contribute to a life-threatening blood loss,” she says. But the sooner you get to the doctor, the sooner you can treat the underlying cause.
6. Sitting On The Toilet Before You Have To Go
It might be tempting to try to go number two before you head out somewhere, but don’t try to force it if it’s not going to happen. “If you tend to linger for lengthy time periods on the toilet, you can place yourself at risk of developing hemorrhoids,” Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says. “Due to the effects of gravity, blood may pool a lot more into the veins of the rectum the more time you remain seated on the toilet […] The problem even worsens more, if you are bearing down and straining during these long periods of time.”
7. Not Washing Your Hands After Peeing
If you’re just urinating, it can seem like no big deal to skip a hand wash, but doing so can actually make you very sick. “Always wash hands to avoid ingesting microscopic bacteria, viruses, and germs that can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or an upset stomach,” family and emergency physician Dr. Janette Nesheiwat tells Bustle.
8. Leaving Your Toothbrush Near The Toilet
Many people leave their toothbrush out on their counter, but be careful where you store it. “Don’t keep it laying out, especially near the open toilet where flushing can allow a fine mist spray of germs into the air, right on to your tooth brush and counter tops,” Dr. Nesheiwat says. She also recommends replacing your toothbrush every three months.
Learn More on Bustle