It's a book that "caused something of a storm in its native Germany," writes Annalisa Barbieri for the Guardian. She's referring to Charming Bowels, a book whose name is not a metaphor (it's out next week in English under a different title). Guilia Enders, a 25-year-old microbiology student, "is utterly, charmingly obsessed with the gut, gut bacteria and poo," writes Barbieri, who talks to Enders about the reality of how we relieve ourselves: We're doing it wrong, but that's fixable. Five ways to rectify things, per Enders and others:
- Squat: Sitting, as we do, isn't optimal based on our body's design. When in that position the "hatch" doesn't fully open. But while squatting, there's less pressure and squeezing. In fact, those who do squat in other parts of the world escape such issues as diverticulosis. To get the effect in an Americanzied way, Enders recommends keeping a stool by the toilet. Place your feet on it and lean forward.
- Get to know your inner sphincter: It turns out we all have an inner sphincter, which essentially (and unconsciously) tests the waters. A "sample" enters an area between the inner and outer sphincters. There, sensor cells make a call: Good to go (ie, you're at home) or not (ie, you're waiting in line at Starbucks). If no, the sample retreats. But "ignore" or deny it too often, and it can stop working effectively, leading to constipation.
- Be kinder to your gut: In an interview with the Independent, Enders argues that if we understood just how much our gut does for us, we might care for it better. Our gut houses more than 4 pounds of bacteria that, yes, digest food, but also fight disease and even, possibly, alter our mood.
- Reset your expectations: LiveScience explains that the line we've heard—that we should defecate daily—isn't actually true. It cites gastroenterologists who say three times a week is OK, as is three times a day. What matters most is consistency: That however often you do it is how often you continue to do it. If you notice a change, there could be a health problem at play.
- Speed it up: Taking our sweet time (with a book or smartphone in hand) may actually be bad for us, as that time could be filled with more instances of straining. LiveScience points to a handful of studies that found people with hemorrhoids are more likely to read on the pot, though it's unclear whether those hemorrhoids are a cause or effect of such sitting.
While we're on the subject of toilet habits, here are some things you shouldn't flush
. (Read more poop