From squatting above the toilet seat to wearing high heels: Why a little bit of discomfort is GOOD for you
- Putting up with a bit of discomfort could stop you getting sick and reduce pain
- Pillows give you a stiff neck and painkillers cause headaches, experts say
Wearing high heels may be agonising for your feet, but it could be good for you.
So, too, could putting up with headaches and squatting over the toilet when you empty your bowels, experts say.
Here, MailOnline explains why you could be better off ditching some of the more comfortable things in life…
Squatting above the toilet seat
During the 19th century seated toilets became available for mass use, and since it has become a staple comfort, despite it not being the best way to go to the toilet. Many westerners are not convinced by standing loos and still prefer the comfort of sitting on a toilet
Forget sitting on the toilet normally.
Doctors actually recommend squatting when you empty your bowels — just like you would if you went camping in the wilderness.
Although uncomfortable, advocates of the technique say it helps to create a clearer passage for stools to pass through.
However, it won’t help by simply hovering above the loo.
You need to be in a squat position with your knees raised above your hips to benefit, experts say.
Westerners have used toilets with seats since as early as the 19th century.
But squat toilets are far more common across Asia, much of Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Eastern Europe. They are essentially a hole in the ground with a place to put your feet on either side.
When you go to the toilet, the puborectalis muscle, which loops around the rectum like a sling, normally pulls the rectum forward to create a tight angle.
That changes when you squat, which sees the angle straightened to less stools pass straight through.
In 2003, Israeli researcher Dov Sikirov studied 28 healthy volunteers to compare how much they strained when they went to the toilet squatting compared to sitting.
They were asked to record the time and ease of their bowel movements on different height toilets and also while using a plastic container.
Six bowel motions were recorded for each position and it took double the time for a stool to pass while sitting on a seat compared to squatting, which took 51 seconds on average.
Taking a cold shower
A research study in the Netherlands in 2016 found that people who had a daily shower and ended it with just 30 seconds of cold water had fewer days off due to sickness over a three month period
Get ready to release your inner Wim Hof, nicknamed ‘The Iceman’ for his freezing feats involving plunges into icy waters.
Taking a cold shower could give your immune system a boost and help your muscles after a work out.
If you put the shivering aside, a cold shower could also help you avoid getting sick, according to Dr Lindsay Bottoms, an expert in exercise and health physiology at the University of Hertfordshire, who has studied it.
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Dr Bottoms said: ‘It appears just having about 30 seconds of a cold shower is good for you.’
A study in the Netherlands in 2016 found that people who had a daily shower and ended it with just 30 seconds of cold water had fewer days off due to sickness over a three month period.
Although the reason why giving people a blast of cold water might stop them from getting ill is not clear, research from the Czech Republic has shown it could give a slight boost to your immune system and help circulation.
And its benefits don’t stop there. Experts believe it could help lift your mood.
Dr Bottoms said: ‘There is some evidence for improving depression and general feeling of wellbeing.
‘This can be due to an increase in adrenaline but also due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin.
‘A cold shower sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which may have an anti-depressive effect.’
Taking a cold shower after the gym could help your muscles recover, but Dr Bottoms stresses, as someone who dislikes taking a cold dip, it is not necessary.
She said: ‘If you are like me and absolutely hate cold water showers then it will have very little benefit on recovery.
‘However, if you don’t mind it then it has been shown to be beneficial.’
Wearing high heels
Research suggests a two inch heel can improve your pelvic floor muscles, which run horizontally underneath the bladder
Wearing high heels could give your sex life a boost. That is according to an Italian expert.
But you don’t have to wobble around in stilettos to see the benefit.
Research shows just a small heel can help.
Dr Maria Cerruto, a urologist at the University of Verona, Italy, published research in 2008 that suggested heels can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
The study of 66 women found those who walked with their foot at an angle similar to a two-inch elevation, had relaxed pelvic muscles which were just in the right position to improve strength and the ability to contract.
A strong pelvic floor can reduce the risk of incontinence.
It could also help your love life because the pelvic floor contracts during an orgasm.
A 2010 study, published in the International Urogynecological Journal found, women with stronger pelvic floor muscles had more frequent orgasms.
Put up with the headache
Using over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol, aspirin or triptans could be the cause of mild headaches. Putting up with minor headaches and refraining from taking any painkillers could reduce your risk of suffering frequent headaches
If you always reach for painkillers the moment you feel a nagging headache, you might want to reconsider dealing with the aches with drugs.
For experts warn they can, in some cases, spark a ‘vicious cycle’ of pain.
Using over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol, aspirin or triptans can be the cause of mild headaches, according to guidelines used by the NHS.
NICE advice published in 2012 revealed that up to one in 50 people experience mild headaches that result from using these treatments frequently.
Martin Underwood, a GP and professor of primary care research at Warwick Medical School, explained that taking these over-the-counter medicines for more than 10 or 15 days can cause medication overuse headache.
He said: ‘Patients with frequent tension-type headaches or migraines can get themselves into a vicious cycle, where their headaches are getting increasingly worse, so they take more medication which makes their pain even worse as they take more medication.’
Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board, said that getting out and doing some exercise can be better than reaching for painkillers if you only have a mild headache, as it will help prevent them in the long run.
She said: ‘At the time it might not always feel pleasant to be exerting yourself, but it is good to make sure you are looking after your physical health.’
Sleep without a pillow
Those who prefer to sleep on their stomach and turn their head to the side could benefit form sleeping without a pillow. Sleeping on your front can put stress of the neck and adding a pillow can put the neck at an even sharper angle, potentially giving you a stiff neck
Resting your tired head on a soft pillow is by far the most comfortable option, but you could be better off ditching it.
Sleeping without a pillow may prevent wrinkles and even cure neck pain, experts believe.
Those who prefer to sleep on their stomach and turn their head to the side could benefit from sleeping without a pillow, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Sleeping on your front can put extra stress on the neck — and adding a pillow can put it at an even sharper angle, potentially making your muscles feel stiff.
But back and side sleepers might still be better off using a pillow, as in this case it does help with posture and provides support for the neck, advocates say.
However, your pillow could also be giving you wrinkles. That is what a US review published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal suggested in 2016.
Researchers studied how pressing one side of your face into a pillow every night may cause more skin impressions because it causes your face to scrunch up.
Sleeping on your back or without a pillow may prevent the likelihood of wrinkles as your skin will not be compressed on one side in the same way, claimed plastic surgeons involved in the research.
But little research has been done in this field and ditching your pillow will not stop the development of aging and wrinkles caused by frowning or laughing.
Refrain from scratching an itch
It is better to just put up with the itchy feeling according to dermatologists. Although scratching the odd itch is fine, if you continuously do it, it can cause an itch scratch cycle
Although satisfying, it is probably best not to scratch your skin every time it feels itchy.
In fact, just like with headaches and painkillers, the more you scratch, the more you might itch, according to dermatologists.
Dr Penelope Pratsou, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, explained that although scratching the odd itch is fine, if you continuously do it, it can cause an itch scratch cycle.
This cycle is linked to a complex interaction between the central nervous system and the skin, Dr Pratsou says.
Chronic itching could be due to several reasons from eczema and psoriasis to underlying health conditions such as low iron levels or an underactive thyroid gland.
Dr Pratsou said: ‘Repeated scratching in patients with eczema and other inflammatory conditions can result in more skin inflammation and worsening of the skin condition.
‘It can also cause breaks in the skin, predisposing to infection and possible scarring.’
Breaking the cycle can be hard because scratching causes the brain to release serotonin, which intensifies the itch sensation, according to a 2014 study by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.
If you feel itchy it is best to avoid scratching and instead treat the underlying cause and moisturise your skin, according to Dr Pratsou.
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