Most of us living in the Western hemisphere have been sitting down to use the bathroom since flushing toilets were invented late in the sixteenth century. But anyone who has lived in or traveled to Asia, the Middle East, or some parts of the Mediterranean may be more acquainted with squatting over a toilet. It turns out that a squatting position during elimination might come with a number of health benefits, including the reduction of constipation and hemorrhoids.
The Benefits of Squat Toilets
While Westerners had been doing their business in a seated position without question for centuries, the squatting versus sitting debate emerged in the 1960s, when a number of medical textbooks suggested that a squatting position is not only more natural, but more comfortable. The inventors of the Squatty Potty, essentially a footrest that converts a standard Western toilet into close approximation of a squat toilet, suggest a number of potential health benefits:
– Less constipation, bloating, and gas
– Lower incidence of hemorrhoids and reduction of present symptoms
– Improved overall colon health
– Better pelvic floor muscle tone and bladder control
– Less straining and faster elimination
A number of clinical studies have looked at the benefits of the squatting position for defecation, and they agree. A 2010 Japanese study found that squatting reduced abdominal pressure and muscle strain in comparison to sitting. An Israeli study done in 2003 found similar results, and also commented on the relative lack of issues relating to hemorrhoids, constipation, and diverticulitis in locales that use squat toilets more frequently.
How It Works
The benefits of squat toilets largely come from an improved anorectal angle – essentially, a straightening of the tubes that the stool has to travel through to exit your body. While sitting, that passage is bent, requiring more effort to allow fecal matter to pass through. Squatting, on the other hand, straightens the anorectal angle, resulting in easier defecation.