Is toilet squatting really better than just sitting, or are the supposed benefits of a squatty potty just the fantasy of a rainbow-pooping unicorn?
For the past few weeks, I have been defecating differently. All my life, when I needed to relieve myself I sat upright on the toilet, feet flat on the floor. Now, I rest my feet on a plastic stool, elevating my knees. The stool is called a Squatty Potty and it is becoming increasingly popular, partly thanks to a viral video featuring a unicorn that poops rainbow-coloured ice cream. But is squatting really better or is this all just marketing hype?
Certainly, sitting upright to void isn’t natural. For most of our species’ history, people squatted, bending their knees and sticking out their bottoms. About two-thirds of people still do this. Of course, “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “better”. However, medical professionals are starting to implicate conventional toilet use in many abdominal disorders including constipation, bloating and possibly haemorrhoids. And a recent review of sitting upright to defecate even concluded that it was time to “put this unfortunate experiment to an end”.
The argument for squatting is all about angles. Most of the time, a muscle called the puborectalis pulls your rectum into a sharp angle, trapping faeces inside. When you defecate, the muscle relaxes and the rectum straightens out, allowing the contents to flow. However, if you sit upright the rectum can’t properly straighten. Squatting eliminates this kink, so should make things easier.