The Truth About How You’re Taking Poops All Wrong

Photographed by Winnie Au.
Warning: This post might be hard to get through if you're prone to the giggles at the mere hint of a poop joke. But trust us, going No. 2 is no laughing matter. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, there are at least 2.5 million doctor's visits for constipation per year in the U.S. and 75% of people will experience hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. And for these issues, how you go may be a surprisingly essential factor.
At least, that's the argument that continues to start shit (heh) on the internet. The basic idea is that sitting on a modern toilet to poop (the way you've probably been doing most of your life) bends your rectum, making it more difficult to actually get anything out. that's an important issue, because research suggests that straining while defecating puts extra pressure on your anus and, thus, increases your risk for painful hemorrhoids. (This isn't exactly a new concept, of course. Some doctors have been worried that our modern toilets have been messing with our internal plumbing since the '60s, yet we remain seated.) The alternative to sitting is squatting. Supposedly, this position doesn't create that bend, making for a potentially more enjoyable pooping experience. Indeed, outside of the Western world, squatting is more common than sitting (either because people don't have access to plumbing or because squatting toilets are more prevalent). In recent years, the invention of the Squatty Potty — a step that props your feet and knees up, forcing you into a squatting position — brought this issue back to the forefront of our minds. Robert Edwards, the engineer who brought the Squatty Potty to life, has claimed that this pooping posture is more "natural" and, therefore, better for you. But the truth is, it remains unclear whether this can actually solve our poop problems. Among experts, there is still a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the true benefits of squatting. "There is a general belief that it is beneficial to have knees raised and feet higher [while pooping]," William Whitehead, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine told the Washington Post. But, he added, there isn't any actual scientific literature to back up the claim that it would solve the issue of well, feeling backed up. (Diet changes may be a better way of handling that situation.) Anecdotal reports suggest that if you're someone who already has trouble with hemorrhoids, squatting could help you manage them or at least lessen the symptoms (e.g., pain and itching). However, that doesn't necessarily mean everyone should switch to squatting. The bottom line: Between heated seats and bidet attachments, we've got a lot of choices when it comes to, well, going. If you're interested in trying the squatting position, the classic doctor's advice is to do so by putting your feet on telephone books. Since we're living in this decade, though, the Squatty Potty is probably a more accessible option. But what matters most about pooping is being comfortable while you're at it. So as long as you're good when you're going, the going is good.

More from Body

R29 Original Series