Of all the things to go wrong when you go to the bathroom, constipation has to be among one of the worst experiences.
Defined as fewer than three stools per week (or less than per week if it's severe), symptoms of constipation include lower abdominal comfort, the feeling that you still have to "go," straining when you're trying to defecate, hard or small stools, and rectal bleeding.
And while there are many options for treatment and relief, new research has potentially found one easier way to get your colon back to normal.
As reported by HealthDay, a recent study suggests that before you sit down on the toilet, grab a small footstool to rest you feet on when you're trying to go number two.
According to the study researchers, lifting your legs up on the stool seems to encourage better bowel movement. Basically, it forces you to get into a squat-like position, which alters your anatomical angle to allow for easier bowel movement.
"A large portion of the world — including Asia, Africa, and [the] Middle East — utilize some form of squatting while having a bowel movement," explained study author Dr. Rohan Modi, adding that most people in developed countries "have largely transitioned to toilets."
According to Modi, an internal medicine residency physician at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, using a footstool "had a positive influence on bowel movement duration, straining patterns, and more complete evacuation of bowels."
A large portion of the world — including Asia, Africa, and [the] Middle East — utilize some form of squatting while having a bowel movement.
For the study, Modi and his colleagues enlisted more than 52 men and women, who had the average age of 29.
Before they tested the footstool method, nearly 30 per cent of the participants said they regularly struggled to go to the bathroom and more than 44 per cent said they experienced strain while doing so. Nearly 50 per cent said they saw blood on their toilet paper after attempting to go to the bathroom.
The researchers then tracked 1,000 bowel movements, with 700 of them facilitated with the help of the footstool.
They found that using the stool "was linked to a shorter time spent going to the bathroom, a reduction in bowel movement strain, and an increased sense of bowel emptiness," reports HealthDay.
Although two-thirds of the study participants said they would continue using the stool, Modi noted that more studies need to be done to explore how the stool could help high-risk patients.
More studies need to be done to explore how the stool could help high-risk patients.
"I think if you are struggling with constipation or straining — or have regular bowel movements and are just curious — this product is a non-pharmacologic option that may benefit you," Modi said.
"But first and foremost," he added, "it is important to have an open dialogue with your physicians about your normal bowel habit."
It is important to have an open dialogue with your physicians about your normal bowel habit.
There are many causes of constipation including medications, poor bowel habits, low fibre diet, abuse of laxatives, hormonal disorders, diseases, and high levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy, notes MedicineNet.com.
The Mayo Clinic notes that treatment for chronic constipation begins with diet and lifestyle changes "meant to increase the speed at which stool moves through your intestines."
Some of these lifestyle changes include increasing your fibre intake with fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole-grain breads and cereals; exercising most days of the week; and taking your time in the bathroom without distractions.
However, if you find that your constipation is severe, worsening, not responding to natural treatment, or associated with another worrisome symptom such as weight loss, you should seek immediate medical attention.
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