If you feel like you have to use half the roll of toilet paper after you have a bowel movement, chances are you may have an underlying health condition.
Not to mention, wiping so much can leave you feeling itchy, irritated, and uncomfortable by the time you finish going to the bathroom.
Ideally, wiping after a bowel movement should take just two to three swipes of toilet paper.
If you’re experiencing something different, try some of the following steps, and see your doctor if your symptoms persist.
There are several health conditions that can make wiping more difficult or affect your ability to feel completely clean after going to the bathroom.
Keep in mind that every person may have to wipe a little more than usual from time to time. But if you find that wiping a lot is the rule and not the exception, consider that one of these conditions may be an underlying cause.
Anal abscess or fistula
Anal skin tags
Anal skin tags are skin growths that develop from recurrent friction, irritation, or inflammation. Common causes include:
- chronic diarrhea
- Crohn’s disease
Anal skin tags may catch stool and make it difficult to clean the rectal area after a bowel movement.
Bowel leakage is also known as fecal incontinence. It occurs when you have a hard time holding in a bowel movement. You may leak stool when you pass gas, or find you leak stool throughout the course of the day.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins inside or outside the rectum. They can cause symptoms such as itching, pain, and bleeding.
Hemorrhoids are pretty common. Research estimates that 1 in 20 adults in the United States and about half of adults 50 and older have hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids may make it difficult to get completely clean because stool can catch on them.
This condition is also known as anal itching. It can result from skin irritation, such as from:
- excessive cleaning
- harsh soaps or fragrances
On top of itching, pruritus ani can cause irritation, burning, and overall discomfort.
Wiping after having a bowel movement is about more than achieving a clean feeling.
For women, not wiping away all fecal matter can increase the risk of conditions such as:
Men can face similar issues, including:
- general discomfort
Several methods can improve feelings of cleanliness after a bowel movement.
Use wet wipes
Wet wipes can help you avoid irritation from dry toilet paper. Even wet toilet paper can work in a pinch.
Look for products that are unscented and for sensitive skin. Otherwise, these wipes could cause irritation and actually worsen your symptoms.
If you decide to use wipes, do not flush them down the toilet. They can clog plumbing.
Check the direction
Always wipe from front to back so you don’t introduce unwanted bacteria into the urethra.
Rinse clean with a bidet or rinse bottle
A bidet will allow the water to flow upward to cleanse the rectum. A rinse bottle should be squeezed from the front, allowing the water to move toward the back.
Avoid ‘aggressive’ or excessive wiping
Excessive and harsh wiping can irritate your rectum. Instead of wiping too much or too hard, rinse the area. Consider a bidet attachment or rinse bottle.
Wear an incontinence pad
Sometimes, if you have repeated stool leakage, an incontinence pad can help you feel clean. It can absorb some of the stool and keep it from soiling your underwear.
In addition to improving your wiping method, the following steps may help treat some of the underlying causes that make wiping difficult in the first place:
- Take a bath in Epsom salts or soak in a sitz bath to help reduce inflammation in the rectal area. This can reduce itching and irritation after a bowel movement.
- Increase your fiber intake if your discomfort is related to constipation. Examples include eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Increase your water intake along with increasing fiber intake. This will help add bulk to your stool and make it easier to pass.
- Take an over-the-counter (OTC) stool softener. It can reduce straining that can worsen hemorrhoids.
Just as there are tips to try, there are also things to avoid. These include the following:
- Avoid products with fragrances in the rectal area, such as lotions, toilet paper, or soaps. They can be irritating.
- Avoid foods and drinks that irritate your digestive tract and can lead to diarrhea. Triggers will vary but may include:
- spicy foods
- caffeine-containing foods and drinks
- sugar substitutes
Talk with your doctor about other methods to avoid irritation and discomfort.
If you experience severe and sudden pain related to bowel movements, seek immediate medical attention.
Also seek immediate medical attention if you have unexplained bleeding. This can look like your stool is red or has the texture of coffee grounds. Bleeding could indicate a number of severe conditions, such as:
- gastrointestinal bleeding
- anal fistula
- severe hemorrhoid
Talk with your doctor if OTC treatments aren’t working for your bowel and wiping issues. They can prescribe or recommend treatment, such as:
- Bowel training. Bowel training involves teaching yourself to go to the bathroom at around the same time each day. It may reduce the likelihood of fecal incontinence.
- Pelvic floor exercises. Your doctor can refer you to a pelvic floor therapist, who can help you perform pelvic floor exercises. These may help reduce the likelihood of fecal incontinence.
- Prescription medications. Your doctor can prescribe medications that reduce diarrhea or symptoms that can occur with conditions such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ulcerative colitis. If constipation is the underlying cause, they may prescribe laxatives or stool softeners for use on a temporary basis.
- Surgery. In rare instances, if OTC or prescription treatments aren’t working, your doctor might recommend surgery to reduce severe leakage.
If it feels like you have to endlessly wipe after a bowel movement, you aren’t alone.
Fortunately, there are several methods you can try to feel cleaner that don’t involve investing in toilet paper stock.
But if your at-home interventions aren’t doing the trick, talk with your doctor. There may be an underlying cause, and treatment can help you feel cleaner and more comfortable.