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How to Have the Perfect Poop: The Only Tutorial You Will Ever Need

Make sure to maintain these simple bathroom habits in order to help keep your bowels happy and healthy.

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Bathroom interiorPhoto: Shutterstock

1. Assume the Right Position

To adopt the perfect pooping posture, 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.)

Try these 15 foods that are natural laxatives.

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2. 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.

Don’t miss these 12 simple home remedies for hemorrhoids.

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3. 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.

Here are 27 healthy breakfast ideas you can use today.

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4. Relax…

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.)

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5. 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.

Here are seven surefire ways to keep your bowels running smoothly.

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6. 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. 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)!

Next, check out more smart tricks to prevent constipation while travelling.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada