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  • Karen

Wiping with dry paper is not what your bum deserves.

A few weeks ago, a friend was in my neighborhood getting her second COVID jab. After her shot, she stopped by for a chat. As often happens with women of our age (45+), these types of conversations often turn to our health ups and downs.

We discuss the typical aches and pains and weight and mood fluctuations of our middle age. But, with this particular friend, it gets a little deeper because she has a history of colon cancer. She went through chemo, radiation, and surgery. Thankfully, she has been cancer-free for about a year now.

However, on this day, she let me know that she was getting some tests done. While she didn't feel there was anything to worry about, she had been experiencing some symptoms that she reported to her physician. Out of an abundance of caution, her doctors wanted to run her through the gauntlet - blood work, MRI, colonoscopy - to make sure the cancer wasn't back or some other issue hadn't surfaced.

So far, everything had come back normal but the symptoms she had complained about were still there. Primarily it was digestive issues that have plagued her ever since the onset of colon cancer. Essentially, her digestion was just not up to par and, well, how do I put this mildly...She constantly goes #2 and it's not a peaceful experience, rather it's explosive.

As I nodded and gave multiple and emphatic "mhmm" sounds to let her know that not only was I comfortable with her telling me what was going on, but that I really related to it. As she opened up more about her situation, I continued to assure her that there was nothing she could tell me that could be any worse than what I've experienced myself. It's pretty difficult to gross me out!

One of the issues she shared was that her constant goings, and the intensity of them, seemed to be causing burning and a little bleeding. Now there was something I could possibly help with. I can't cure cancer, I can't perform a colonoscopy, but I can 100% help my gal pal with some tips for her agitated butt.

My go-to #1 tip for a sore bum area is taking baths after a taking a poo. My friend actually said she used to do that. So, I asked, why did you ever stop?? If you want to learn more about why I so highly recommend baths for people with burn-y butt syndrome (not a medical term if you're wondering), check out this blog:

My #2 tip is no less critical. What do you wipe your bum with? Especially if you are going regularly, you and your butt cannot afford to use something that is going to do more damage to your already angry ass.

Let's be honest with each other, even the ultra-plush, quilted, angelically soft toilet paper could be considered a barbaric material to use to wipe our most delicate areas with. And the premium price you pay just to get a little more comfort hardly seems worth it even to me, the queen of butt care. Today's TP might be better for our bums than the earliest wiping materials used, like the frayed end of an old anchor cable, a used corncob, newspaper or catalogue pages, leaves, lace, wool... but not by much!

Anyway, my friend admitted she didn't pay much attention to her TP choice. She used to use wet wipes but stopped using them because she heard how terrible they are for the environment.

There's no shame if you're still using wet wipes. If this routine is calming to your fiery rear end situation, I can certainly understand your desire to stick with it. But, perhaps you haven't heard of their potentially devastating impact on nature. Please know that there has been much research that shows that these wipes are showing up on our coastlines in significant numbers. (That visual actually does take my gross meter to "10".) Also, according to The Atlantic Magazine, even though wet wipes are marketed as "flushable," they often contain plastic and are not biodegradable. Once they are in the sewer system, wet wipes bunch together and trap food and other waste to form giant blockages. Let's wipe wipes off the planet!

I am very grateful to my friend for prioritizing Mother Earth over her tush, and hoping that you are now motivated to do so as well. So, what are the alternatives? First, I'll tell you what I do and you can decide if this is something you can live with. Then, I'll share a couple of other options that you might find more your style.

As with my bathtime routine, I have a distinct process to my TP routine:

  1. Go poo (self-evident I suppose)

  2. Keep a small reusable squeeze bottle filled with water somewhere by toilet. Mine is stashed covertly in a basket that holds magazines and extra toilet paper rolls.

  3. Tear off your right-sized amount of toilet paper (for my hubby that's one square, for me it's about 10 squares!) and douse it with water from the squeeze bottle so it's wet (yes, like a wet wipe or sponge). You don't want to wet it too much, or it will tear. With time and practice, I know you'll figure out your just-right moistness.

  4. Wipe your tush, gently please. In fact, I encourage you to rethink your wipe action altogether. I prefer to think of it more as dabbing up something that spilled. Also, I don't need to dig for gold up there, just brush the dust off the area. Particularly, if I'm heading into the tub afterward where I'll be doing some more cleansing of the area.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you feel cleaned up.

Also, similar to my bathtime routine, I pack my squeeze bottle for any overnights. I have forgotten to take along this important item every now and again, but no need to panic. Often, it's just as convenient to sit on the toilet, rip off the TP you need, and reach over to wet it under the faucet instead of using your bottle.

I can certainly understand if this doesn't feel like your cup of tea. The following are some other options:

* Washcloth. However, if you don't love the wet toilet paper idea, then I have a feeling this one will make you even more squeamish. Truthfully, I'm not a fan of this one for us adults. Maybe for a baby's bottom, but not for my arse, which would require at least a handful of washcloths each poo. The amount of washloads I'd have to do to keep up the washcloth supply for my bum negates any benefit for me.

* Bidet Toilet. I feel I must first state that you should never use a bidet as a toilet; these are two different things. A bidet is a bowl or receptacle that you sit on to wash all your private areas - genitalia, perineum, inner buttocks, and anus - the whole shebang. Hard for us to imagine it here in the U.S., but several European countries today actually REQUIRE every bathroom containing a toilet bowl to have a bidet. Most often, the bidet is used for rinsing after defecation or post-coitus. It can also be used to wash feet, which I think is quite ironic given I work on feet as a reflexologist. Me-thinks this bidet-thing might actually be my soulmate!

* Bidet Shower. Perhaps getting a bidet is intriguing to you but having this extra bowl in your bathroom doesn't make sense - not enough space, you feel uncomfortable with it, the plumbing work et al seems like too much of an investment, or whatever... So, you could look into a bidet shower. This is a hand-held trigger nozzle that is placed near the toilet and delivers a spray of water used to clean your nether regions after peeing and pooping. Imagine spraying your bum clean with your kitchen sink spray nozzle and you'll get the idea. I have a friend who invested in one - he professes that it is a game-changer in the bathroom department.

If there is one message I hope is clear from this post, it should be: STOP using straight old toilet paper on your sensitive underground parts. Adding water to your routine in some way, shape, or form, should help fend off irritation, plus leave you feeling more clean overall.

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