There’s no doubt that Western Civilization has something of a special relationship with the modern toilet. What should be a simple receptacle for elimination has been idolized with nicknames such as, “The King’s Throne” or the “Porcelain God.”
But what if our fascination with the ability to neatly whisk away our bathroom business has led us down a medically hazardous track? In fact, that’s exactly what the folks at Squatty Potty believe has happened…
To understand why sitting – rather than squatting – can have a negative impact on the health of our digestive systems; consider the structure of the large intestine. Waste products are stored in this area – also referred to as the “colon” – before being released into the rectum. This transition is controlled by the puborectalis muscle, which wraps around the lower segment of the colon, holding waste in and granting adults the privilege of controlling where and when defecation occurs.
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For nearly all of human history, our ancestors squat to relieve themselves and – in doing so – caused the puborectalis muscle to relax fully, leading to complete elimination of the feces. Sitting on the relatively new convenience of modern toilets limits the movement of this critical muscle, preventing it from releasing fully and causing difficulties when it comes to full defecation.
If you think about the biological imperative of eliminating waste in order to allow internal organs to function optimally, it’s no surprise that inhibiting defecation can lead to negative health effects. What is surprising, though, is that many of these common issues are frequently attributed to dietary insufficiencies – when the real underlying issue is much simpler.
The hallmarks of incomplete elimination resulting from a modern seated position include:
- Colon Disease
- Urinary Difficulties/Infections
- Pelvic Floor Issues
Really, if you’ve ever been told that a lack of fiber in your diet is the culprit behind your digestive issues, you could be putting a band-aid over a much larger issue!
Interestingly enough, research exists that backs up the notion that seated bathroom postures aren’t compatible with human health. Take, for example, a study conducted by ten noted Japanese scientists from top research institutions, titled, “Influence of Body Position on Defecation in Humans.” After testing a small group of subjects in a variety of elimination stances, the group concluded:
“The results of the present study suggest that the greater the hip flexion achieved by squatting, the straighter the rectoanal canal will be, and accordingly, less strain will be required for defecation.”
It’s both proven science and common sense – the human body is able to eliminate waste products most efficiently from a squatted position, compared to the modern seated alternative.
Of course, knowing this is only half the battle. After all, it’s not like you can walk around modern society simply squatting at your leisure, the way our caveman ancestors did (at least, you can’t do so without getting a ticket!). Instead, if you’re concerned about your digestive health, you’ll want to take a look at any of the different adaptive devices that exist to mimic the ideal squatting position on contemporary toilets.
A number of such solutions exist – including everything from blocks that support the feet to complete platforms built around the toilet – but one alternative in particular that you’ll want to look into is the Squatty Potty.
The Squatty Potty is a simple foot stool that sits around the base of your toilet and elevates the feet and knees to form an ideal 35 degree angle with the body during elimination. It comes in three stylish options and a range of different heights to accommodate different toilet styles and the size and flexibility of its users (currently, the Squatty Potty supports weights of up to 300-350 pounds).
Overall, the Squatty Potty is a great place to start if experimenting with different bathroom postures plays a role in your Paleo journey, as it’s extremely affordable (starting at just $19.95 for the base model), durable and stores neatly under your toilet. Even if you ultimately decide to invest in a more advanced squatting system (say, the larger “Nature’s Platform” system, which retails for $150), the Squatty Potty will give you a way to try out this technique in a safe and healthy manner.
Give it a shot – your digestive system will thank you!