“What’s the deal with men sitting on the toilet for so long?” Lucy* asked the table at lunch. After we all swallowed our food… begrudgingly, I might add, I pondered this philosophically poignant question. Was she onto something bigger, here? Could sitting so long be symptom of something far worse? What are the ramifications of this time seemingly well spent? And why couldn’t she wait until I finished eating my cheeseburger to ask?

*pseudonym to protect the innocent

I knew I had to delve deeper into the proverbial poo mystery to find out why we take longer to do our business than the female gender. It had to be more than just reading poetry, finding quiet solitude away from our offspring and solving all the mysteries of the world.

The more I dug, the deeper down into dunny I got. Now, we know that bowel movements are a necessity of life. They allow you to empty waste (undigested food, proteins, bacteria, salts, and other unmentionables) from your diet via your intestines. According to a study around the hydrodynamics of defecation (good toilet reading), it takes mammals an average of 12 seconds to make their magic.

Ok, so men aren’t as advanced as most mammals. But, the consensus from the medical experts is that we should keep our toilet time to less than 10 to 15 minutes. This, of course, is still considered far too long by our better halves as they magically seem to finish their dirty deed in the time it takes most men to find their news feed app. Amazing creatures.

mage-thinker-on-toilet

Think of number 1 when you’re doing number 2.

The most optimum time for a bowel movementis when the urge hits. Go figure. If you’re not feeling too pressed to poo, you might be tempted to push or strain to try to get the job done. This could lead to the development of hemorrhoids– bulging blood vessels around your anus that can become swollen and painful or even bleed.

Even if you’re not straining, sitting with your rectum unsupported and in the incorrect position (like when you’re sitting on the toilet), can cut off the blood supply to your rectum and cause hemorrhoids.

So, either way you are up shit creek, so to speak.

Wait, it gets worse. Mounting the music box for more than a few minutes on a too regular basis could also cause rectal fissures of the anus, increase the chance of hernia formation and could possibly even exacerbate male varicoceles (which are basically varicose veins inside the scrotum).

Scary that such a beautiful, natural thing is fraught with so much danger. Alas, these are the risks that modern man is willing to take to feed his mind with literature, politics and the causes of catfights amongst the Kardashians.

Image-man-on-toilet

Hold the phone!

Did you know that focussing more on reading the paper or scrolling through your phone could cause your bowel movement to “lose the moment?” Here’s why: a thing called the peristalsis wave- progressive, rhythmic contractions that move stool along your bowel – sparks your need to poop. Once the stool hits your rectum, you feel the urge to go. If you don’t go when that feeling hits, you may experience a process called reverse peristalsis, where the stool backs up slightly into your colon (working in advertising for too many years also causes this phenomenon).

Anyway, this basically makes it a lot harder to poop. Your colon extracts some of the fluid from your stool, which can contribute to constipation. The harder and dryer your stool is, the more difficult it is to pass. Stress can also reduce peristalsis and slow the movement of your bowels.  It’s not pretty, no matter how you slice it.

What are some foods that make you poop?

Extended toilet time is also a sign that you could be constipated. So, make sure you’re getting plenty of fiber, roughly 38 grams per day.  Exciting foods like wholegrain breakfast cereals, whole wheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats, barley and rye; fruit such as berries, pears, melon and oranges; vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn; peas, beans and pulses, potatoes with skin and nuts and seeds are all great natural sources of fibre.

You may also want to ask your doctor about taking a magnesium supplement, which relaxes the bowel helping things move along more smoothly, or an over-the-counter laxative.

But if you need a quick fix to pull out the proverbial cork, coffee can help stimulate the urge to poop. Several studies have shown that it can activate contractions in your colon and intestinal muscles, pushing contents towards the rectum, which is the final section of your digestive tract. This also make wonderful conversation over a flat white at the café with friends.

How many times should you poop a day?

While all people poop, the frequency varies greatly. Some researchers indicate that anywhere from three bowel movements a day to three a week can be normal.

While you’re down there, it’s also important to check the consistency of your stool, as it can sometimes the be a more significant indicator of bowel health than frequency. However, if a you don’t poop often enough or too frequently, both can cause severe health problems. So, always check with your doctor if you’re unsure.

Anyway, a short answer to Lucy’s* question about why we spend so long on the pooper is this: men are full of shit.**

*Actually, Lucy is her real name.

**Yes, I did write much of this on the toilet.