How to poop the right way
Just like every other day, you settle down onto the toilet seat, ready to let it all out. As you scroll down your Facebook or Twitter feed, you notice half an hour has passed and your bowel has not even moved. But you made sure you ate enough greens for dinner last night! What is happening? The answer might lie in the toilet itself.
The Australian Tax Office recently introduced squat toilets to its Box Hill office in an attempt to embrace diversity in the workplace. Squat toilet is still an alien concept to Australians, but they are common in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and also parts of France, Greece, Italy and Russia. Installing squat toilets in offices not only caters to a diverse workforce, but also encourages healthy bowel movements of their employees.
Don’t just sit there!
Squatting supporters argue that the Western toilet is somewhat responsible for bowel disorders such as constipation and hemorrhoids. The main causes of hemorrhoids are sitting on the toilet for long periods of time and straining during defecation. Straining increases the pressure in your rectum, causing the veins around your anus to swell or even bleed if over-stretched. Constipation worsens the symptoms as you have to push harder when the stools are solid.
To understand how the improper use of sitting toilets can cause hemorrhoids, let’s first examine how defecation works. Each time we contract or release the anal sphincter – a ring of muscle guarding the opening of the anus – we control the excretion of faeces. However, the bend between the rectum – where faeces are stored, and the anus – where faeces exit, also gives us a clue to how easy it is to discharge faeces. When we sit, this bend (termed anorectal angle) is about 100 degrees, and 126 degrees when we squat. In other words, a sharper angle blocks the exit of faeces and you have to put more pressure on the rectum. Whereas a squatting posture straightens out the bend, making defecation easier.
The secret of squatting
An experiment by an Israeli doctor named Dov Sikirov compares the straining forces during defecation between three different positions: sitting on a standard toilet seat (42cm high), sitting on a 31cm high toilet seat, and squatting. Participants reported when squatting, they need less defecation effort and much less time for each bowel movement as compared to those when sitting. Dr. Dov Sikirov concludes that the toilet experience is easiest in a squatting position as we don’t have to use as much straining effort.
Squatting does have its perks. But the next time you need to answer the call of the wild and the last vacant cubicle happens to be a squat toilet, would you go for it? I know that many people, including my fellow uni students (yes we do have squat toilets at Melbourne Uni), are petrified by the idea of getting that close to the floor. But how hard can squatting be? We human beings have squatted for several hundred thousand years until sit toilets become popular in the mid-19th century. Squatting suits the human physiology and ease constipation, so why not try it once before deciding whether you love it or hate it? And for those germaphobes out there, a squat toilet would be an ideal option for you; you will no longer need to cover the seats the next time you choose to bake some brownies in a public toilet!