Public bathrooms can be nasty. Porta-potties as well. I remember my mother carefully laying toilet paper on the rim of the seat in public bathrooms. As I got older, I followed suit, trying to keep the paper on the rim without touching anything. I later found it was much more efficient to squat, if you weren’t going to be there long. Squatting was also necessary on long runs and other “got to go now” times. Fortunately many public restrooms have toilet covers. but you’ve got a 50-50 chance of getting it to stay on. [Does the long tab-thingy go on the front or back?]
According to the WHO, 1.1 billion people go without a toilet. You may have noticed on your foreign travels that some public toilets have a porcelain foot print on which to stand and squat. Many people, although they have a toilet, choose to squat. Really and why? After some research and chatting with squatters I found it was the preferred position for elimination and it has positive health effects.
Slate’s article Don’t Just Sit There! has an entertaining and informative article on squatting, even relating the advice given to President Jimmy Carter’s by his proctologist to explain his hemorrhoids. “We were not meant to sit on toilets,” he said, “we were meant to squat in the field.” Who knew that hemorrhoids affect half of all Americans and new research suggests that getting your butt off the toilet can help.The theory is that squatting makes defecation easier and eliminates the straining that can lead to hemorrhoids.
In order to mimic he squatting position without there’s a gizmo, Squatty Potty, that sits by your toilet and raises your feet, bringing the knees closer to your body. It simulates the squatting position. You can see their SharkTank video here and their YouTube video animation of a unicorn pooping ice cream here (reminds me of the hilarious ad for Poo Pourri). As the videos suggest, improper toilet posture can affect your health and correct posture can help with straining issues such as hemorrhoids, pelvic organ prolapse and constipation.
Here the why behind squatting for bowel movements. We have the sphincter muscle that keeps poop from coming out. But, it doesn’t do all the work on it’s own. There’s a bend or angle between the rectum, where feces builds up, and the anus, where feces comes out. This bend is called the anorecal angle and is about 90 degrees. It keeps the feces inside. (It helped me to see an illustration.) When we squat to defecate, it’s like a garden hose. The angle flattens out and, voila, feces out. Toilets puts us at the improper angle.
Whether you suffer from elimination issues or not, try squatting. You don’t need to buy a Squatty Potty, just put something, like yoga blocks, under your feet as you sit on the pot. You could try to climb on the toilet seat, but be careful, it’s slippery up there.(1). Happy squatting!
(1) While traveling in Spain, to squat, climbed onto a toilet seat with my socks on. I lost my footing, my feet slipped into the bowl and I slammed my shins into the seat. Good thing no one was watching. I’m sure it was quite hilarious!