How to poop the right way

Image credit: Codex41 via Flickr

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.

Anorectal angle – labelled C. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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!

Worth watching: 

Video: This unicorn changed the way I poop – #SquattyPotty

Video: Should you seat or squat to poop? 


14 Responses to “How to poop the right way”

  1. Giovanna says:

    Fantastic post and the squatty potty video was hilarious! I’ve heard of them before but didn’t know how it worked until now.

  2. Tu Nguyen says:

    Hi Natalia, there’s a squat toilet in the MSD building!

  3. Natalia says:

    Interesting post. Just a question, where in Melbourne uni can I find the squatting toilets? Just curious…

  4. Nam Nguyen says:

    Hey Tu,

    Thanks for writing this post! Although it borders on being a little strange, the topic is certainly thought-provoking and out of the box. Can’t wait to put this into good effect.

  5. Rinky says:

    We have the squat toilets in India and I have used them in my life, but, never really knew there was a scientific reasoning behind it! But, now, the use of squat toilets has gone down. Thanks for interesting explanation Tu.

  6. Runjie Yuan says:

    Fantastic post. I have to admit I was attracted by your heading and then shocked by the content. I’m even considering should I change the sitting toilet into squat in my house.
    Actually, sometimes, when you sit on the commode and take out your phone, it is easy to forget what the purpose of going to toilet. But it won’t happen in squat toilet because your legs will become numb once you spent too much time there.

  7. kazis says:

    This is an incredibly novel and unusually thought provoking piece, thanks for writing it! I suppose it makes sense that squatting would be more comfortable, given how long our species have gone without sitting. It might even help stop me falling asleep on the throne so much.

    I should probably see a doctor about that.

  8. August says:

    High five for using my favourite commercial of all time! Squatty Potty is The *you know what pun I intended here ;)*
    I’m curious if one day people would address this matter seriously and enforce health-regulations on toilet design? It wouldn’t be a bad idea for every toilet to have a built-in footstool like a Squatty Potty.

  9. Kaye says:

    Very interesting subject Tu, and I loved the Squatty Potty commercial. Highly entertaining, and it sure did ‘colorfully’ demonstrate the benefits of squatting – but will I be able to eat soft-serve ice-cream again ?? … not sure.

  10. Ebony says:

    I’ve heard so many times that squatting is much better for you than sitting, but never known the reasoning behind it!
    The Squatty Potty ad was fantastic too. Might have to work up the courage to try it myself…..

  11. For anyone curious to try the squat toilets Tu mentioned you can find them in the school of design building, two staircases up from our Science Communication lecture. I haven’t been so brave, yet!

  12. Tu Nguyen says:

    Thank you for your comment. I have updated a few links that explain really well how the anorectal angle changes from sitting to squatting. Please check them out, especially the Squatty Potty ad cause it’s awesome!

  13. kkhine says:

    Dear Tu,

    It is interesting. Could you show pictures of how the anatomy of anorectal angle change differently while using squat toilet versus western toilet?

  14. Daniel Kelly says:

    I completely agree with this! I do a fair bit of bush camping/hiking, and using a squat toilet is a lot easier/better feeling.
    And lest we forget the Squatty Potty commercial?