For most of history humans have squatted to have a bowel movement. In fact, if you watch children still in diapers you will see them squat naturally when they have a bowel movement. Most unfortunately this good, natural behaviour is unlearned with the beginning of potty training around the age of two.
What’s Wrong With Sitting?
While the majority of the world (two thirds of the population) still squats to defecate, the western world with its sitting posture has some of the highest rates of bowel and colon related diseases including:
* Hemorrhoids , occurring in 50% of the population over the age of 50
* Appendicitis , occurring in 7% of the population
* Irritable Bowel Syndrome , affecting 10-20% of the population
* Diverticulosis , affecting half of all Americans age 60 to 80, and almost everyone over age 80
* Colorectal Cancer , over 148,300 new cases and 56,600 deaths expected in 2002 in the US alone
* Bladder Incontinence , 50% or more of elderly persons are incontinent and $16.4 billion is spent every year on incontinence-related care
* Prostate Cancer , over 190,000 new cases and 30,200 deaths each year in the US
What Happens When Sitting?
When seated the anal canal is not straight. It curves quite sharply, the kink designed to maintain continence, and this frequently results in obstructive constipation. Because of the curve when sitting, straining is required to empty the bowels and this can damage the delicate tissues, and cause the veins to become distended. This can result in hemorrhoids. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Medical Science in 1987 showed a 90% cure rate from hemorrhoids after switching to the squatting position.
Prostrate and Bladder Problems
The perineum (the little patch of skin between the anus and the genitals) contains nerves that control the bladder, prostrate, and other organs. Bearing down to empty the bowels causes the perineum to bulge out and over time causes the nerves to stretch out and become damaged resulting in a loss of bladder control and loss of communication between the prostrate and the brain. The “pelvic floor nerve stretch injury” as it’s called is well known to medical science.
Eighty per cent of colon cancers occur in the cecum and the sigmoid colon. While sitting it is physically impossible to completely empty these regions. Residue left behind hardens, and exposes the colon to toxic carcinogens. An article in the journal Epidemiology listed fecal stagnation as a major risk for colon cancer. In traditional Asian and African cultures where squatting is the norm, colon cancer is virtually unheard of.
When fecal matter becomes trapped in the cecum, it can block the opening to the appendix which then becomes inflamed. Emergency surgery is then required to prevent a fatality. Before sitting toilets were invented, approximately 150 years ago, appendicitis was virtually unknown, however by 1900 it was the most commonly diagnosed complaint in western society. Cultures that use the squatting position do not fall prey to this disease as the cecum is completely evacuated in the squatting position.
Another problem resulting from sitting to defecate is leakage of wastes from the large to the small intestines at the ileocecal valve. This valve is closed while squatting but relaxes open in the sitting position. With straining, wastes are forced back into the small intestine where they are “digested” and make their way into the blood stream, placing extra strain on the liver which must now filter the toxins out.
What Does Squatting Do?
In a full, natural squatting position the full weight of the body rests on the feet. Squatting opens the muscles of the pelvic area, angles the rectum for the best possible mechanical advantage, braces the muscles of the abdomen, and pushes the thighs into the abdomen to supply extra force for the abdominal musculature as well as supports both the ascending and descending colon. Squatting also protects the pelvic nerves by keeping the perineum rigid.
In a study by Australian researcher Wallace Bowles wherein 3,000 Australians converted to the squatting position, evidence showed a reversal of bladder incontinence (including bed wetting by children) and a reduction in men of prostate gland size as well as lowering of PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels.
It Used to be Easy.
When you were born you had “squatting facets” on the talus (heel) bones in your feet. In cultures where squatting is a way of life both on and off the toilet, these “squatting facets” are retained into adulthood. However in western cultures where sitting and standing are the norm, these facets disappear as we mature, tendons shorten and squatting becomes a difficult balancing act for many.
What about Semi-Squatting?
Some people, aware of the benefits of squatting but whom find it difficult, try to take on a “semi-squatting” position by sitting on the toilet and then raising their feet up on a step-stool or chair. While this position visually approximates the squat, the abdominal muscles designed for elimination are not engaged unless the full weight of the body is on the feet and therefore this position offers little advantage over conventional sitting.
What to do?
With the evidence mounting it would seem that squatting is the way to go. You can learn to squat right on the toilet seat. Here’s how:
• Begin as usual, pants down, sitting on the toilet seat
• Reach behind you with one hand and hold the top of the toilet tank
• Reach your other hand behind you and hold the tank on the other side
• Bring your legs up one at a time, placing your heels on the seat, your toes can hang over the edge if you like
• Using your hands, push yourself forward (away from the toilet tank) until all your weight is on your heels and you’re using your hands for balance only
You’re ready to go! To get down:
• Bend your elbows and let your back rest against the toilet tank
• Bring one leg down at a time
• Release your hands from the tank
• Finish up as usual
Try this a few times before resorting to the next method, which involves purchasing a prop.
If you simply can’t manage squatting on the toilet then you can order something called Nature’s Platform off the web. This is a plastic and metal platform with angled steps for your feet. It supports 300 pounds, does not put any stress on the toilet, needs no assembly and folds neatly out of the way.
So give squatting a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
In good health.