Parents can relate to the fact that we spend a lot of time potty training children. However, that’s likely the only time we experience “toilet talk”. When I provide basic bowel and bladder tips to my adult patients, I am always surprised when they say “why didn’t anyone tell me that?”. So, here’s a list of some of the best tips that every person should know about toilet talk.
- Don’t force your children to go to the bathroom “just in case” or just out of convenience too often. This presents two challenges: 1. The bladder and nervous system are very sensitive. If your child goes to the toilet without an urge regularly, the bladder will become sensitive to that threshold; and they will feel the urge to go more often. 2. This behavior is easily carried with them into adult years with potentially unnecessary episodes of urinary urge, frequency, and hassle. * There are obviously times when the decision to use the toilet early is advisable.
- Did you know that the average healthy adult should be able to wait 2-4 hours to urinate? Can you wait that long? The most common thing I hear “but you don’t understand, MY bladder is so small. I have to go every 30 minutes…”. Generally, there are easy ways to train your bladder to wait longer. As indicated in the prior point, you may have had habits for many years that predisposed you to believe your bladder was small and unruly. Remember, don’t go to the bathroom just in case (NO JICs). Your bladder is constantly storing urine. So, if you go early, you will likely urinate, but this does not mean it was time to go yet.
- Urinate when you wake up in the morning. Your bladder needs to get “flushed” out. The rule of waiting 2-3 hours to urinate does not apply here.
- Don’t sit on the toilet for greater than 10-15 minutes at a time. This increases the risk for hemorrhoids, worsening of pelvic organ prolapse, and more pelvic floor issues! On a related note, NO STRAINING with bowel movements. When you strain, there’s a significant amount of pressure placed on the pelvic floor and surrounding structures. So, sitting for greater than 10-15 minutes + straining = unhappy and unhealthy pelvic floor.
- Women- remember to always wipe front to back (after urinating or having a bowel movement). This reduces the risk of introducing bacteria and other bad elements into the vagina and urethra.
- If you feel a bulge or a “golf ball” at/near your vagina or rectum or you need to use your hand to help with bowel movements, you possibly have some form of pelvic organ prolapse. Other symptoms can include increased urinary or bowel urge, constipation, and a pressure feeling worst with standing up or straining. You can discuss this with your gynecologist, family physician, or pelvic physical therapist. You are NOT alone. This is common, but patients feel very embarrassed to share. But there is help for this.
- Do you like to wear Spanx, shapewear, girdles, or pantyhose? They are totally slimming, right? Guess what? They can also impede your pelvic floor muscles from fully relaxing when you urinate or have a bowel movement. When you sit down on the toilet with your slimming designer fashion, make sure to slide them all the way down as close to your ankles as possible. This way you can relax your pelvic floor and allow for the best chance of fully emptying your bladder or bowels.
- Have you ever read a magazine that told you to try to stop your flow of urine to check to see if your pelvic floor muscles are strong? Well, it’s technically one way to check, but it’s not good for you! Some of my patients thought they were supposed to do this every day on the toilet as part of a Kegel exercise program. No, no, no. This can cause all sorts of issues.
- If you experience bowel or bladder issues- such as constipation, irritable bowel, painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis, urinary urge or frequency- there’s hope! There’s a high likelihood that you can modify your diet or fluid intake and make significant changes. For example, did you know that caffeine and alcohol can increase urinary urge? I have also seen many cases of constipation drastically improve with proper diet modifications. Take this seriously!
- As a general rule, adults should not need to get up in the middle of the night to urinate. As we age and get to 60+, urinating one time during the night is normal. Oh, and pregnancy is also an exception. Two easy tips: 1. Limit fluid intake to little or nothing 2 hours before bedtime. 2. If you feel an urge to go in the middle of the night, see if you can fall back asleep and resist that urge to get up. On a safety note, if you do wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, please make sure you have a well-lit, clear path without furniture, uneven rugs, or toy soldiers in your path.
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Blog post by: Tracy Sher, MPT, CSCS. – Pelvic Physical Therapist, Faculty and Founder of Pelvic Guru, Consultant and National Speaker.