This is the Best Position to Poop

...And more bathroom habits for healthy (and comfortable) bowel movements.

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best position to poop - man sitting on toilet
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The best position to poop

To adopt the best position to poop, lean forward with your knees higher than your hips and your elbows on your knees, and relax your belly. (If you’ve had recent hip surgery and are still using an elevated toilet seat, consult your doctor about when it’s safe to raise your knees.)

The bottom of the rectum has a muscle that wraps around like a slingshot, called the puborectalis. “When it shortens and contracts, it narrows the rectal opening and prevents stool from coming down,” says Gayle Hulme, a pelvic health physiotherapist in Calgary. “Putting the knees up allows for that muscle to relax and lengthen, and it opens the rectum.” Squat toilets may be uncommon in Canada, but toilet stools like Squatty Potty, TURBO Stool and Squat-N-Go can assist with getting those knees up. (An ordinary footrest can also help.)

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Best position to poop - Woman straining on toilet
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Don’t push it

Avoid holding your breath and straining to poop. The pressure can overstretch muscles and weaken them, contribute to hemorrhoids and cause anal fissures. It can also close off your anus instead of allowing it to relax and open. You may end up with constipation or more difficulty holding in your bowel movements.

Here’s what your poop can reveal about your health.

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Best position to poop - alarm clock morning wake-up
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Stick to a schedule

Your colon has a sleep-wake cycle just like you do, and you can encourage a daily morning poop by eating a proper breakfast and giving yourself time to go. In general, try to answer the call of nature when it comes. The longer your stool sits in the large intestine, the more it dries out as water is absorbed. “You can make constipation worse by inhibiting the urge to go,” says Dr. Geoffrey Turnbull, a gastroenterologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Find out the best foods to make you poop.

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Toilet happy face
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We poop more successfully when we’re feeling comfortable, as that’s when our anal muscles are more likely to relax. Go in a familiar environment if you can, and don’t rush the process. Give yourself a few minutes, if you need it, to release any tension. (If no poop is forthcoming, be prepared to walk away, so you’re not tempted to force the issue.)

Find out six sneaky things that can trigger IBS symptoms.

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Man pulling luggage through airport
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Avoid vacation constipation

A different time zone can throw off your schedule, and unfamiliar menus and limited food choices may mess with your digestion. Even the microbial environment isn’t what you’re used to. Build a new bowel routine early by establishing set mealtimes in your itinerary. Remember to include fibre-rich fruits and veggies in your meals. (Here are 12 high-fibre foods worth adding to your diet.) On a long flight or train ride, get up and walk around to stimulate your system. And pack your prunes (or the dried fruit of your choice)!

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Toilet paper
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Be kind to your behind

Your derrière is delicate. Too much wiping with paper can damage skin, causing it to itch, feel sore and bleed. If you tend to get irritation around the area, try cleaning with water and cotton pads instead of toilet paper (or use a wet wipe, as long as it doesn’t contain harsh chemicals). Rinse well and pat dry. You may get relief with a sitz bath—a shallow, warm bath for just your bum—after bowel movements. “Some foods, like coffee and citrus foods, tend to make this irritation worse,” Turnbull notes.

Now that you know the best position to poop, discover seven daily habits for healthy bowel movements.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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