Bidets vs. Toilet Paper for NMO Patients? Here’s My Choice

Columnist Jennifer van Amerom explains why she asked for a bidet for her birthday

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by Jennifer van Amerom |

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Last month was my 41st birthday. A celebration is often a pipe dream, resulting in me feeling drained as the day approaches and then doing nothing. This year was different, though; I had no big plans except eagerly waiting while my husband installed my new birthday gift.

I had requested the oddest gift: a bidet attachment for my toilet. My family obliged.

Before you decide that this column stinks, hear me out. This attachment is life-changing. Bidets, seats, and attachments are common in Europe, with their origins in France in the 1600s, but they were shunned by North Americans until recently, when some panicked and thought there might be a toilet paper shortage during the pandemic.

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Why I got a bidet

Living with neuromyelitis optica (NMO) presents so many challenges, including being immunocompromised. We’re susceptible to infections of all sorts, so cleanliness is paramount. Using toilet paper leaves small traces of fecal matter, whereas I believe that water does a better job of keeping us clean. Paper can also make small cuts in our skin, creating a greater risk of infection.

A long list of infections, parasites, and bacteria can be found in human feces, including salmonella, Candida aurus, E. coli, hepatitis A, and norovirus, among others. If you’re as grossed out as I am, it’s why I considered getting a bidet attachment.

Some studies, including a 2017 study in Japan, have found that bidets also may have bacteria and viral organisms in the nozzle, as Healthline reported. Another study found that “habitual use of bidet toilets may disrupt healthy vaginal microflora,” the health site noted. However, these studies were conducted in a hospital setting and may not reflect the reality of bidets in the home. What they did indicate is that more studies are needed.

That said, many patients also struggle with food and medication sensitivities, leading to more toilet time. Chafing from toilet paper is uncomfortable and can lead to some embarrassing moments when trying to sit down afterward.

NMO can also impact the spine, with patients reporting numbness and weakness in their extremities. And long-term steroid use can lead to arthritis. This can create wiping mobility challenges, where, again, a bidet is superior and easy to use, in my opinion.

Bidet attachments are affordable

While there are some real luxury bidets on the market, it isn’t necessary to break the bank. For already cash-strapped patients, this is good news.

I requested a bidet attachment from Tushy as my birthday gift, which retailed at around $100. Their standard product connects to the clean water line in the toilet tank. If cold water bothers you, their next model in a higher price range connects to the hot water line under your sink.

Tushy products are effortless to install. We did add spacers under the toilet seat so it doesn’t make a slamming noise every time anyone sits on it, but that’s a minor expense that doesn’t impact its functionality.

As someone raised by a germaphobe, and who has now become one out of necessity, I’m not embarrassed to talk up bidets. Patients shouldn’t shy away from conveniences that make our lives a little easier and cleaner. If you’re interested in getting a bidet, talk to your doctor first.

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Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).


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