Q: Is using a bidet a healthy way to clean yourself after going to the bathroom?
A: It may be, though it likely depends on several variables, including the design of the bidet. Modern bidets, which look similar to toilets, deliver a stream of water to the genital and anal areas (or they can be used as a shallow bathtub for the derrière). They vary in where the jets are located and the water pressure and temperature options.
Proponents say that a bidet is better than using toilet paper because you can remove more fecal matter, it’s less irritating and you won’t contaminate your hands while cleaning yourself. It can be an option for people who have severe arthritis in their hands or other disabilities that make wiping with toilet paper difficult. There have been few studies, but some research suggests that bidets can help with such conditions as hemorrhoids, anal fissures and pruritus ani (itchy anus).
On the other hand, a 2010 study published in Colorectal Diseases found that people with one type of anal fissure improved when they stopped using a bidet. Moreover, a large Japanese study of women in 2010 concluded that habitual use of bidets adversely alters the normal bacteria that live in the vagina— though the health implications of this are not clear. Then, there is a risk of scalding if the water is too hot or of damaging sensitive tissue if the pressure is too high or if you overuse the bidet.
There’s no need for most people to use a bidet. If you have a problem adequately cleaning yourself after defecating, you could just use soft, wet toilet paper or moist wipes (which you should dispose of in the trash even if they are labeled “flushable,” because some sewage systems may not be able to handle them). For extra cleaning, you could install a toilet hose (cheaper than a bidet) or, if you shower after defecating, you could use a detachable shower spray.