To squat or not?

Last updated 10:52 09/01/2013

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We very rarely discuss it with our peers, but we all do it - call it dropping a load, popping to the loo or whatever you like, there's a whole school of people who now think the way we go to the bathroom is bad for our health.

The elevated toilet was invented by John Harrington in 1596 (the British writer even managed to convince his famous godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, to be one of the first to try it). And ever since then, more and more parts of the world - with great patches of the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa a large exception - have taken to sitting rather than squatting while eliminating waste.

"The modern toilet is an ergonomic nightmare," John Edwards, the man behind squat-assisting stool the Squatty Potty told the Washington Post. "We didn't evolve to 'go' that way." Edwards says squatting can rule out "issues caused by modern toilets," from constipation and haemorrhoids to pelvic-floor disorders, all of which, he says, are "linked to straining" while defecating.

The 37-year-old designer's simple invention costs $42 (minus shipping) and is basically just a stool that tucks under your toilet and, when pulled out, it allows you to raise your feet and mimic the angle of squatting. Why? Well, because Edwards says that's the way we were designed to do it.

Indeed, medical studies agree with Edwards, with a 2003 report in the Israel Journal of Medicine finding that squatting cuts down toilet time from an average of 130 to 53 seconds and leads to less abdominal strain. "Because of the anorectal angle being in a kinked position while sitting you are forced to strain in order to move the bowels, which is the main cause of haemorrhoids. While squatting the angle straightens out allowing the faecal matter to eliminate quickly and easily without straining."

"Compare sitting on the toilet to a kinked garden hose, it just doesn't work properly," explain the people at Squatty Potty. "In a squatting posture the bend straightens out and defecation becomes easier."

In fact, colorectal cancer has a much higher incidence in the Western world, and some believe - although conclusive medical studies haven't yet to be completed - that sitting on the toilet could be a cause of this.

"The conventional sitting position deprives the colon of pressure from the thighs and leaves the rectum choked by the puborectalis muscle," notes Jonathan Isbit of Nature's Platform, another squatting entrepreneur. "These obstacles make elimination difficult and incomplete - like trying to drive a car without releasing the parking brake. Chronically incomplete evacuation, combined with the constant extraction of water, causes wastes to adhere to the colon wall. The passageway becomes increasingly constricted and the cells start to suffocate. Prolonged exposure to toxins will often trigger malignant mutations."

Keen to try it? If buying a special device seems a bit excessive, a simple everyday stool should suffice, and some health practitioners say you can even just pile bricks or old magazines on either side of your toilet (just make sure they're stable).

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