Although talking about our bodily functions is still often considered taboo, the discomfort a lot of people feel about "bathroom talk" can actually a detriment to our health. Take, for example, the debate about the best position for pooping: The second the word "poop" is uttered, a lot of people feel compelled to run for the proverbial hills — even though actually tackling the question head on is likely to be of great use for everyone involved.
That's why I was so happy to find SciShow's recent video, "What's The Best Position For Pooping?." In the video, host Michael Aranda discusses the pros and cons of squatting while you poop versus sitting. It turns out that squatting is actually the "classic" way of defecating, in that the toilets we use now are a recent invention (the first flush toilet was described in 1596 by Sir John Harington, although the first patent didn't come until 1775, courtesy of English inventor Alexander Cummin, according to History.com). In many parts of the world, though, people "squat" over toilets instead, which is actually what the norm used to be pretty much everywhere. Now people are trying to determine whether or not a return to squatting while they defecate would relieve them of certain pains and ailments, ranging from discomfort to serious illnesses, like IBS.
These are the kinds of questions that make a lot of people turn on the "Incognito" tab of their browser and scroll in shame. But it doesn't have to be that way! The more people feel comfortable talking about bodily functions, the more information is out there about how our bodies work — and the more people can feel empowered and confident in their own skin. We don't have to be ashamed of our bodies, because honestly? Bodies are amazing.
So, back to the question at hand: Is squatting while you poop actually better for you? Here's the case for both sides of the discussion — and be sure to watch the full video, too.
1. The Case For Sitting
Sitting is what we've been doing in the Western world in recent history. As colorectal surgeon Rebekah Kim told NPR in 2912, sitting on a modern toilet doesn't cause problems for most people. Research is ongoing, although it's also worth noting that while some people claim that squatting on a toilet has helped relieve symptoms of IBS or even prevent things like cancer, we don't have a ton of evidence backing up these claims.
2. The Case For Squatting
The general logic behind squatting to defecate is that the squatting position causes the anorectal angle to straighten, meaning that your body then requires less effort for evacuation. Makes sense, right? On this note, there have been some research studies that suggest squatting on a toilet may lead to less straining, which can prevent hemorrhoids. In general, straining leads to hemorrhoids because straining can put pressure on the anus, which can then develop painful bleeding and sores.
For example, one study published in the journal Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in 2010 examined the way abdominal pressure and the anorectal angle simultaneously impacted defecation in six otherwise healthy volunteers. Researchers considered three positions, including sitting, sitting with the hip flexing at 60 degrees, and squatting with the hip flexing at 22.5 degrees. In the end, they concluded that in the squatting position, there was less abdominal pressure and therein, less straining. It was a small study, so we can't draw wide-reaching conclusions from it; however, it does suggest that more research might be warranted.
3. So, Which One Is Best?
If you want to try squatting, go for it! You're unlikely to harm yourself squatting, though it's debatable whether or not you'll see noticeable differences in the bathroom. Studies show that squatting may have some advantages, but overall study pools have been small. When there are small sample sizes in scientific studies, it's not to say that the studies aren't good studies, but it means that you should take them with a grain of salt because they may or may not actually represent the general population. And if you're having bathroom problems, it's always a good idea to consult a medical professional and talk to them openly about your symptoms.
Check out the full video above on whether it's better to sit or squat while you poop.
Images: SciShow/YouTube (3)