Bidets are great, but do you really need one? health experts comment. (2023)


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Carrie Verrocchio has a theory: once you go to the bathroom, you never go back. She's so obsessed with the toilet accessory that sprays water to clean your bum that her family has installed one in each of their four bathrooms - and they're on the hunt for a travel bidet, a water bottle-sized device that that you can use. when they are on the go.

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Where should the appeal begin? "It feels clean all the time," says Verrocchio, 55, a motivational speaker who lives in Binghamton, New York. "Do you know that when you go to the bathroom, you have to wipe with paper towels a dozen times? You don't do that with the bidet. It literally just flushes, puts it in the toilet and pats it dry. I wish we had done it years ago.”

Nikki Webster, 47, a British writer who now lives in Florida, also thinks her bidets are essential. "When you're drying, you're basically drying everything that's within reach," she says. "When you spray, you get into every nook and cranny, making you that much cleaner."


In fact, health professionals generally agree that bidets improve the hygiene experience in the bathroom, at least when used properly. What's less clear is whether they serve a broader medical purpose: although there is evidence that they may be helpful for people with hemorrhoids or mobility issues, for example, research is inconclusive and there are concerns that bacteria could become attached to the device ; In addition, scalding can occur if the water gets too hot.

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Although not a medical necessity, the bidet isexploded in popularityin the US during the pandemic - and in Europe and Asia they have long been widespread. These devices come in a variety of styles and spray water on your genital and anal areas after using the toilet. Converts say they are far more hygienic than toilet paper and also more environmentally friendly because you use less toilet paper. "Remember when the pandemic first hit and there was a shortage of paper products?" says Webster. "No problem at our house. Looking for toilet paper never bothers us — it wasn't even a problem.” Over time, bidet lovers are also finding that they're inexpensive. You can get a basic bidet attachment for around $50, while a standalone bidet can cost a few thousand dollars.

This surge in usage among Americans is an encouraging moment for James Lin, who launched the e-commerce siteBidet KingLate 2009 after visiting his grandmother in Taiwan and meeting her bidet. "It was one of those experiences where the glass breaks and you can't put it back together," he says. After a decade of brisk sales of the devices, orders suddenly skyrocketed during the pandemic as paper products became scarce. "To say there has been an increase is somewhat of an exaggeration," he says. "Sales went up 20-30 fold in two to three weeks to the point where you couldn't buy a bidet if you really wanted one. They were all sold out.” Stock levels have since returned to normal, he reports, although interest remains high.


As Lin puts it, those who spot the bug "can't shut up — they tell their neighbors and friends and stuff."

Here's what health experts say about the pros and cons of the bidet.

The professionals

Washing instead of drying is a matter of course in many respects, he says Evan Goldstein, an anal surgeon in New York City and founder of Bespoke Surgical. He regularly recommends the bidet to his patients. “It just makes perfect sense from a hygienic point of view,” he says. “Excess residues can be removed in this way. The bidet has always been part of anal hygiene.”

Less drying.According to Goldstein, Americans tend to be overly dry: because we're so keen on being clean, we keep rubbing ourselves with toilet paper, which irritates the skin and sometimes even causes minor cuts or bleeding. While toilet paper can be abrasive, a bidet delivers a more soothing jet of water to sensitive areas. However, wiping can't be avoided entirely: Goldstein points out that it's still important to dry yourself completely after using the toilet — otherwise excessive moisture can lead to infection. He suggests patting yourself dry with a small piece of toilet paper or a towel; No wet wipes that can irritate skin, especially with regular use. (Some bidets have a built-in air dryer, but those models tend to be more expensive.) "The reality is that when most people switch to a bidet, they're mad at themselves for not using it sooner, and you think it's a game changer," says Goldstein. "It's hygiene at its finest."

Good if you have mobility issues.Bidets are often particularly useful for people with mobility limitations, including those with arthritis, morbid obesity or Parkinson's disease, it saidChristine Lee, gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic. The device minimizes the need to use your wrist to reach awkward spots on your bottom. "If you can't get all the way down — or you have a spinal cord injury and you have less sensation and so aren't entirely sure where you're wiping — yes, something like that can affect the quality of hygiene practices." She says. The bidet is a handy option to ensure a thorough clean.Plus, Lee says, some seniors with poor hand-eye coordination who can't trim their nails accidentally cut themselves while drying, leading to pain and infection.Actually, oneInvestigationThe study, published in Gerontologist, found that the bidet improved "toilet comfort and cleanliness" in nursing home residents aged 75 and older.

Useful if you have trouble in this area.There is limited research on the bidet, but some studies suggest potential health benefits. Using one like this may make sense for thosehemorrhoids and anal fissures, as it reduces pressure in the rectum and is a relatively gentle experience. And people withitching in the anus, the technical term for itchy anus, are often warned to avoid toilet paper, which leads them to the bidet.

"There are clear anecdotal reports from people with hemorrhoids that the bidet helps," he saysJohn Swartzberg, Clinical Professor Emeritus in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley. But beyond those testaments and a number of preliminary studies, "there isn't much science to back up the passionate claims made by bite lovers," he says. For example, some proponents believe the bidet helps prevent UTIs, but Swartzberg says there's no proof of that.

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The disadvantages

Worry about germs.A bidet isn't a devastatingly better toilet experience: some studies raise concerns. A largeInvestigationpointed out, for example, that regular use of a bidet altered the good bacteria in a woman's vagina. The study would have to be "replicated" for the researchers to draw any conclusions, Swartzberg says.


AnotherInvestigationA study involving a Japanese hospital found that 254 out of 294 bidet nozzles were contaminated with infection-causing organisms such asStaphylococcus aureusAndThe enterococcus spp.

Maintenance and cleaning.It's a good reminder of one of the golden rules of bite ownership: you need to clean it regularly. In many cases it is sufficient to wipe a damp cloth over the nozzle; It's usually best to avoid harsh chemicals, although this may vary by model. "If you take proper care of it in terms of cleaning and maintenance, it could be just as hygienic - if not more hygienic - than toilet paper," says Lee.

Possible burns.It's also important to pay attention to the water pressure and temperature of your bidet: if either of these values ​​are too high, you could scald or other buttock discomfort. Having a professional plumber install your bidet and reading the instruction manual can help prevent such misfires, says Lee.


Conclusion: Do we all need a bidet? Swartzberg owns one, so he understands the appeal. "We put one in when we remodeled about ten years ago, and now there's competition in the household to see who gets to use that toilet," he says. However, apart from cleanliness, there is no compelling medical reason for its use. "It's a personal preference," he says. “People who like them tend to really like them. But from a medical perspective, I don't think it's better or worse."

Angela Haupt is a freelance author and editor. Follow her on Twitter@angelahaupt.

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