If you’re squeamish about poop this may not be the article for you, but the fact is, most of us in Western countries are essentially pooping the wrong way.
Nobody likes talking about this subject, so it’s fortunate that researchers have taken on the subject themselves so that others don’t have to.
But what they found is something that indicates we as a society may need to rethink our bathroom habits entirely.
Squatting Versus Sitting
German microbiologist Giulia Enders is at the center of this debate, with her new book The Charming Bowels having topped Germany’s bestseller’s list for several weeks in 2014.
According to Enders, we in the west have been pooping all wrong.
“The 1.2 billion people in the world who squat [when defecating] have almost no incidence of diverticulosis and fewer problems with piles,” she told the Guardian last year(1).
“We in the west, on the other hand, squeeze our gut tissue until it comes out of our bottoms.”
This theory has been put to the test in studies, particularly a 2003 study by Israeli doctor Dov Sikirov, which compared the two techniques.
While those who squatted to poop felt their bowels emptying fully in a relatively short period of 50 seconds, the participants who sat to poop took over twice as long and reported a less satisfactory experience(2).
Reducing Diverticulosis And Piles
It makes sense that those who squat to poop have less issues with diverticulosis and piles – both are problems caused by straining too hard when going to the bathroom.
Squatting, Enders reports, puts less pressure on our anuses than standing or sitting.
An Increasing Interest In Poop
According to doctors, there is an increasing interest in the goings on in our guts recently, as more and more people learn about how the bacteria and function of our guts can affect everything from our digestion to our mental health.
“There is a huge number of gut bacteria which, in health, maintain a balance,” Dr. Ayesha Akbar told the Guardian(3).
“However, an imbalance has been linked to many chronic disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease and obesity. There is a suggestion that they may also be linked to psychiatric disorders and mood, with the majority of evidence coming from animal studies.”
More Than Just Poop
Our understanding of how our guts and bowels function has evolved significantly in the past several years. Not only does the way we poop matter, but the delicate balance of bacteria in our guts can affect our entire bodies – including our nervous systems(4) and brains(5).
No wonder Enders’s book has made such a splash – the subject is fascinating, even if it might seem like a gross topic to talk about.