The Do's and Don'ts of Your Bathroom Break

At some point you were potty trained. Well hopefully you were. And while we are all grateful to the people who potty trained us, the fact is that they may have passed on some not-so-true info. So let's clear up a few common misconceptions. 

Don't do the “just in case” bathroom run  

Ladies we are particularly notorious for this. You’re about to go for a long car ride so you run to the bathroom "just in case." Or you're at the bar and your friend says she has to go to the bathroom, so you go with her and pee even though you didn't feel like you had to. 

Makes sense right? Nope!

By peeing when you don't have an urge, you are training your bladder to hold less urine. No you don't "have a small bladder." You just aren't giving your bladder a chance to do it's job! 

The bladder can store up to 20oz or 2.5 cups of urine. You get an urge to pee as your bladder begins to stretch. If you stay hydrated, its normal to pee about 6-8x/day. Anything over 8 is called urinary frequency. 

You should be able to wait 2-5 hours between each void.  Each time you pee you should void 8-10oz of urine. To know if you have reached this amount, count how long you actually pee (not how long you sit there waiting). You should be able to count to at least 8 Mississippi

This is assuming that you have normal function and are staying hydrated. Alcohol, soda, nicotine, and caffeine are bladder irritants, which means that they increase the rate of urine production.

Concentrated urine also acts as a bladder irritant. That's the really dark yellow pee you see after you haven't been drinking enough water, so stay hydrated!

Don't accept leaking as normal 

Maybe the reason you pee "just in case" is because you worry about or have experienced leaking.

Ladies, let's say this together: "Leaking is not normal and I won't put up with it."

It's not "okay" if you're laughing very hard, or doing jumping jacks, or because you had children, or because you coughed. 

Your pelvic floor muscles are made up of two types of fibers. There's the type I fibers which keep your urethra closed off while you go about your daily life. Then there's the type II fibers which come in to the rescue any time you need a quick close (think during those jumping jacks).  

Problems with the function of these muscles (either being too weak or too tight) can contribute to leaking. Don't worry, you can work with a pelvic floor physical therapist to change this!  

Do completely relax

This applies to both #1 and #2. Your pelvic floor muscles must be fully relaxed when you pee or poop, otherwise they will block the passageway. The job of your pelvic floor muscles is to keep your urethra and rectum closed, so that you don't "go" until the time is right (i.e. you're on a toilet). 

The muscles which actually move urine/feces are called smooth muscles. These muscles are NOT under your voluntary control.

That means you can't make them contract! So when you strain or try to "push" while pooping, you are not engaging the correct muscles. All you are doing is contracting your pelvic floor muscles and blocking the exit. 

This can lead to incomplete voiding, constipation, pain, and other problems. Again, if you have problems with this, you can work with a pelvic floor therapist to address these issues. 

Don’t hover over the seat 

This goes hand in hand with the point up above. In order to be completely relaxed, you need to be seated (or in a full squat like our ancestors). When you hover over the toilet, you engage the muscles of your legs, abdomen, and pelvic floor.

As we already went over, this means that you are closing off the exit.  

"But Monika, public toilet seats are disgusting!"

Ok, so you're doing this for hygienic reasons. No worries. Use as much TP as you need to cover the toilet seat, but make sure your bottom is firmly planted when you go! 

Do wipe front to back

This is a simple tip to prevent infections. The female anatomy makes it easier for us to pass along bacteria from feces to the urethra or vagina, which could happen when wiping back to front. 

The information for this post is cited from: Therapeutic Exercise Moving Toward Function 3rd Edition, Brody & Hall 2011. 

Do you have any other questions about “normal” bathroom habits? Did any of these Do's/Don'ts surprise you?