For many of us, sitting down on the toilet is a matter of course that we hardly ever question. But this common western sitting position is extremely unsuitable for our digestive tract.
Before there were toilets, people had no choice but to do their big business in the great outdoors. And for this they did not go into a sitting position, but instinctively crouched down. Squatting down to defecate is still common in many African and Asian countries.
In Europe, on the other hand, the sitting position has become established. At first glance, this appears to be little more than an interesting cultural detail. But the posture we adopt on the toilet actually has significant consequences for our health: while squatting promotes healthy bowel emptying, the sitting position can be more harmful to the intestines.
This is how sitting damages our intestines
According to Quarks, the fact that emptying the bowel becomes more difficult when sitting is mainly due to the pelvic floor muscle. Because it bends when we sit. The back and thighs are at an angle of about 90 degrees, so that the last piece of the intestine no longer goes straight down, but is curved. On the other hand, when we squat, the pelvic floor muscles are relaxed and the bowels are straight. This makes bowel movements easier.
In a study from 2016, subjects only needed about a minute for a bowel movement when they were squatting. Seated subjects took over two minutes. According to researchers, there is also evidence of a connection between chronic constipation and tensing of the pelvic floor during bowel movements.
In addition, many people tend to tense their muscles even more by straining when they have a slow bowel movement. This can cause damage to the inner lining of the anal canal. Among other things, this favors the development of anal fissures or hemorrhoids.
Squatty Pottys: How to stay relaxed on the toilet
Word has gotten around in society how much healthier the squatting position is for the intestines. That’s why there are now even stools that are supposed to help you to take a more squatting position even on a sitting toilet. To do this, the feet are placed on the approximately 20 centimeter high stool and the upper body is bent slightly forward.
In 2019, researchers examined how effective these so-called “squatty potties” are in a US study. 52 subjects took part in the study. They all initially reported digestive problems, such as constipation, blood in their stools, incomplete evacuation, or straining to pass stools. After using the stool for two weeks, the symptoms had improved in 90 percent of the participants.
The researchers conclude that the stools and the resulting healthier posture during bowel movements can also bring about improvements in healthy people. When you go to the toilet, the pressure on the anal canal is reduced, the bowel movement passes more quickly and the feeling of complete emptying of the bowel is more pronounced.
In order to promote intestinal health, of course, the other way of life also plays a major role. For example, a healthy diet with enough fiber and little sugar, as well as sufficient exercise and relaxation, is important for a healthy intestine. You can find more information and tips here: 5 tips for your intestinal health: How to promote it.
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