No, this is not a post about rest and relaxation. It is a post about going to the bathroom, and had I been a little more bold, I’d have simply titled it “potty talk,” because this post is all about the squatty potty.
Squatty Potty, you say? Yes, Squatty Potty. It looks like this:
And I was graciously sent one to review by the company itself.
At first, I was a little hesitant to talk about unmentionables. I even hesitating accepting this product for a review, because I was afraid I’d feel embarrassed discussing it. But let’s get real for a second: this is a raw foods blog. Everyone here is pretty darn comfortable talking about their bowels. So, dear CR readers: let’s roll up our sleeves, surrender our inhibition, and talk freely about a subject we’re all at least somewhat fascinated by: elimination.
I’d guess that a solid half of my readers have expressed to me–either in private emails or via comments–that they have suffered from IBS at some point in their lives. More specifically, most of my readers have suggested that they used to suffer from constipation of varying severity. I haven’t written about constipation on the blog per se, but I’ve written about the things that can influence it pretty explicitly: diet, stress, eating habits, and the consistency and regularity with which we eat. I’ve even mentioned small things–like chewing food carefully and not chugging water with meals–that can help to aid in digestion and reduce constipation. And I’ve stated outright that I believe that proper elimination is crucial to good health, good energy, and overall feelings of well-being.
It is no exaggeration to say that I found my way to raw and vegan foods because of a monstrous history of GI trouble, and constipation was the biggest problem. Changes in diet, coupled with reduced stress about my IBS (because fretting about it always made it worse) have granted me an essentially symptom free life. Of course, we should never take healing for granted, and I am very conscious of my own digestive health (after all, I’m contemplating a specialty in gasteroenterology!).
How do I maintain my GI health? Simple:
- I eat high raw, vegan foods that I digest well.
- Whenever I travel or experience unusual stress, I take a probiotic supplement to help maintain levels of good bacteria in my GI tract.
- I drink plenty of fresh vegetable juices whenever I can, which help to keep me hydrated and nourished.
- I sip water at meals, rather than gulping it, which allows my stomach acid to work efficiently on the digestive process.
- I chew my food carefully, so that I’m not forcing my stomach and large intestine to digest excessively large pieces of food.
- I eat filling meals and snacks at regular intervals, which allows my peristalsis to be consistent and my system to remain regular.
- I work on stress management and reduction through yoga, reading, good conversation, music, and fostering a healthy perspective on life’s challenges.
- I do not obsess, as I used to, on every gurgle, grumble, or disruption of my digestion. It’s not normal to experience chronic discomfort, but occasional and mild digestive upsets are normal, whereas compulsive worry about them is not.
Finally? I pop a squat. That is, I elevate my feet when I go to the bathroom. I’m hardly the first person to feel strongly about this: doctors, naturopaths, and assorted holistic health professionals have pointed out the hazards of the modern toilet for years. This is not the superstitious distrust of all things modern or technological that one occasionally comes across in the holistic world: there’s a good reason that elevating one’s feet during elimination is healthy. Let’s look at end of our colon, shall we?
As you can see, there’s a sharp bend between the rectum, which stores feces, and the anus, where they are released. This is called the anorectal flexus. When we’re upright, this angle is at about 90 degrees. This is a good thing: our puborectalis muscle creates this angle so that we can remain continent. When we need to eliminate, however, the angle can create strain. Numerous doctors claim that, when we squat, the flexure relaxes along with the puborectalis muscle, and it becomes easier to eliminate. Bockus Gasteroenterology (a older resource, but one that is still considered definitive) states: “The ideal posture for defecation is the squatting position, with the thighs flexed upon the abdomen. In this way the capacity of the abdominal cavity is greatly diminished and intra-abdominal pressure increased, thus encouraging expulsion.”
Does this mean that it’s impossible to eliminate properly if we’re standing or sitting? No, absolutely not. Our sphincter muscles allow us to eliminate in a wide variety of postures, by applying muscle pressure to the process. But the muscle strain has a toll, which is the possibility of hemorrhoids if one has been straining a little too much. Hemorrhoids are extraordinarily common in the US (many of you have probably experienced them), and there’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that squatting can eliminate their frequency.
So: if you’ve had hemorrhoids in the past, if you’re constipation prone, or even if you want to enjoy easier bowel movements, this post is for you.
The squatty potty fits discreetly around your toilet bowl, and serves to prop your feet up as you go to the bathroom. It’s easy to assemble (if I can assemble something, anyone can) and it props your feet about nine inches above the ground: this is around what a natural “squat” would be (if this feels uncomfortably high, there are also shorter models). Now, I’ve been propping my feet up when I eliminate for years: typically, I just prop them up on my bathroom garbage can or a stack of books. But if you want a permanent contraption that helps you to create a really authentic squat posture, this is for you.
I find the nine-inch height slightly too high for me, so I’d recommend the 5” or 7”, but that’s really a quibble: I’m very happy with the squatty potty. I’m also happy with its aesthetic: it’s a bamboo model, and it actually looks very elegant in my bathroom. See?
Check out the Squatty Potty site for prices and heights. You’ll see that it’s a bit of an investment, but you’ll also probably have it forever, and will come to find that it’s tremendously helpful to your morning elimination. If you can’t afford one, I hope your takeaway from this post is that it’s a great idea to prop your feet up regardless.
There. That wasn’t so hard, I guess. If you’ve had your hands over your ears until this point, I’m sorry I subjected you to potty talk. There will be food, I promise, tomorrow.
Did I just put pictures of my toilet on the interwebs? I think I did. Happy Friday.