11 Things You're Doing In The Bathroom That Could Actually Be Signs Of A Greater Health Problem
While it may not be fun to talk about, anytime your bathroom habits change, and it starts affecting you regularly, it's a good idea to mention it to your doctor. Not all changes are a bad thing or a cause for concern, but sometimes a noticeable shift in your bowel movements, how frequently or infrequently you pee, and even changes to your menstrual cycle can be a small sign of a larger health problem.
Again, don't diagnose yourself, panic, or jump to conclusions. But do pay attention to what's common for your body, and monitor your daily habits. "Pay attention to changes to your [every day] bathroom routine," Shawna Curry, registered nurse, health coach, and author of Healthy By Choice tells Bustle. "It's [typical] to have bowel movement anywhere from a few times each day to only once every three days. What’s more important is noting a change to your current routine."
Have you been peeing more frequently? Have you been experiencing diarrhea? Or a heavier period than usual? Then definitely speak up and tell your doctor. The sooner you can spot a change, and speak with your primary care physician, the better you'll feel in the long run. And, if a health issue does arise, catching it early may make it a lot more treatable. Here are a few bathroom habits experts say may be a sign of a health problem, and are worth looking into.
1. Your Pee Feels Urgent (And Really Hot)
Holding your pee in during a long car ride can result in an urgent "I have to go right now" feeling. But if you find yourself rushing off to the bathroom on the regular, and experiencing urine that burns as it comes out, it could be a sign of a health issue.
"Burning during urination may indicate that you’ve got a urinary tract infection, yeast infection, or possibly a sexually transmitted infection," says Curry. "These are all conditions that can benefit from the advice of a doctor to prescribe and treat them properly."
By seeking medical advice, you'll be able to clear up a potential infection with a course of antibiotics, or find the best course of treatment to nip discomfort in the bud.
2. You Always Wake Up At Night To Pee
If you drink a big glass of water before bed, then you'll probably have to wake up to pee in the middle of the night, and that's OK. But if it seems to be turning into a habit — i.e., you're waking up more than two times per night, every night — it may be a good idea to see your doctor.
"Many urinary symptoms can be due to a urological disease process, such as urinary infections, overactive bladder, enlarged prostate, etc.," Dr. Arash Akhavein of Comprehensive Urology, tells Bustle. Akhavein says some symptoms worth asking your doctor about include frequent urination, waking up many times at night to use the bathroom, pain or burning when urinating, an inability to hold in your pee, a constant, urgent need to pee, or blood in your urine.
When you speak with your primary care doctor, or a urologist, they can check you for urological diseases, and help alleviate some of these symptoms.
3. You Are Experiencing Frequent Diarrhea And Gas
The occasional bout of diarrhea is common, and may just be a symptom of a virus. But if your diarrhea doesn't go away, or gets to the point where it's controlling your life, it could be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
"The most common bathroom habits that may be a sign of IBS include intermittent diarrhea and/or constipation coupled with abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, or gas," registered dietician Lauren Smith, RD, MS, tells Bustle. "Because IBS is often triggered [by] stress and/or dietary habits, the best intervention to date is determining which foods are 'triggers' and learning to re-structure [your lifestyle] to meet each individual's needs."
With help from your doctor, you can determine if your gas and diarrhea are, in fact, due to IBS. And from there, you can discuss the best course of action for reigning in your symptoms.
4. You Have Diarrhea, Gas, And Blood In Your Stool
Another GI issue that can cause IBS-like symptoms is Crohn's disease. "Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in one's gastrointestinal tract," says Smith. "Just like IBS, individuals suffering from Crohn's disease may have similar bathroom habits such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, or gas." But there are a few major differences.
"[Signs] of Crohn's disease include rectal bleeding and/or bleeding in stool (whether visible or invisible), unintended and significant weight loss, and anemia," she says. If you spot these signs when going to the bathroom, it'll be a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor, so you can find out if Crohn's disease is to blame.
5. You Have To Strain While Pooping
"Pushing and straining with bowel movements can be a sign that you're constipated," Dr. Rachel Gelman, DPT, PT, branch director at Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center tells Bustle. "It may mean you need to make dietary changes or increase your water intake, or it could mean the pelvic floor muscles are ... having trouble relaxing."
It's common to feel constipated on occasion, so it's important not to panic or assume the worst. But if you struggle to have a bowel movement, or seem to sit in the bathroom for long stretches of time with no results, consulting your doctor may be a good idea to help get you more regular.
6. You Always Have To Spray Air Freshener
While poop never smells great, take note if you have to spray a ton of air freshener every time you have a bowel movement. If your stools are more foul-smelling than usual, it could be a sign of a dietary issue — perhaps a food sensitivity or allergy — or a bacterial overgrowth, Gelman says. "If it's a constant problem I would recommend that they consult with a gastrointestinal doctor."
7. You Can't Seem To Pee
If you sit down to pee and only a few dribbles of urine trickle out, it could be a sign of dehydration. This is especially true if the pee that does pass is dark in color. "Dark yellow, straw-colored urine is a sign of dehydration," Dr. Scott Schreiber tells Bustle. If you also have dry mouth, fatigue, muscle cramps, and lethargy, it's definitely time to up your water intake.
8. You've Been Feeling Nauseuous
If you are feeling nauseated, experiencing stomach cramps, and constantly need to use the bathroom, take note. "Food-borne illnesses, also known as food poisoning, occur when food is contaminated with microorganisms, toxins, viruses, or parasites that are harmful to human health when consumed," says Smith. "Depending on the type of food poisoning, onset of symptoms can range from a few hours to a few days after eating. Classic signs and symptoms of food poisoning include watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping after consumption of contaminated foods or beverages. Additionally, changes in color (such as green or frothy stools) or foul-smelling stools can also be a tell-tale symptom of food poisoning."
While you can ride out the illness on your own, food poisoning can cause dangerous levels of dehydration. But no need to worry — if your symptoms last more than a few days, and are accompanied by a fever, pop on over to your doctor or the ER to get you healthy again.
9. You're Always Brushing Your Teeth
Your bathroom habits also obviously include your dental hygiene, so take note of any changes here, too. If you find yourself constantly brushing your teeth and fighting off bad breath, for example, it could be a sign of an issue with your oral health.
"Gum disease is the second most common cause of halitosis [bad breath] and is more prevalent in people ages 35 and older. In mild cases (called gingivitis), the gums become red, swollen, and bleed easily, but there is usually very little or no discomfort," Dr. Harold Katz tells Bustle.
So if you notice that bad breath sticking around, or your gums are giving you troubles, speak with your dentist about how to tweak your oral hygiene routine. As Katz says, "Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene, however, it is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care."
10. Your Bladder Often Leaks
If a little bit of pee sneaks out when you're not trying to urinate, you might have a condition known as leaky bladder, and that is a symptom of urinary incontinence. It can be a little embarrassing for some people, and a little uncomfortable, so it never hurts to talk with a doctor about a course of treatment.
"Urinary incontinence affects people of all ages," Dr. Cindy Neville, PT, DPT, WCS tells Bustle. "About 15 percent of girls under the age of 18 leak urine. Thirty five percent of adult women have bladder control problems, and 50 percent of women over the age of 65 leak urine." So don't be afraid to discuss this with your doctor — you're not alone in experiencing these symptoms.
11. You're Changing Your Tampon Frequently
When you have your period, does your life revolve around changing your pad or tampon? If so, it could be a sign of a problem. "An abnormal amount of menstrual bleeding is when you are changing a pad or tampon every 30 to 60 minutes for three or four hours," Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women's health expert and author of She-ology tells Bustle.
While some women simply have a heavy flow, it's important to point out any changes in your mentrual cycle to your doctor, so you can stay on top of your health.
And that really is the purpose of noticing these changes and habits in the first place. While bathroom habit changes are not always cause for alarm, by paying attention to what's common for you, it'll be easier to spot changes in your health if they do arise, and thus seek treatment, as soon as possible.