Q: Is squatting a better way to go to the bathroom? Can toilet squatting reduce constipation?
A: There hasn't been enough research to know if squatting while using the toilet can help prevent constipation. Squatting was the normal way to defecate until the invention of the flush toilet in the mid-19th centuryand is still the most common position for going to the bathroom around the world.
A few small studies suggest that toilet squatting may help reduce constipation. For example, in an Israeli study in 2003, people (age 17 to 66) took less time to defecate and reported straining less while squatting, compared to when they sat on a normal or low toilet. And in an Iranian study in 2002, defecation was more complete when people used a squat toilet. More recently, a Japanese study found that there was less build-up of abdominal pressure when people squatted, suggesting that less effort is needed to defecate.
"But nothing has been published that shows that squatting actually reduces constipation,” says Dr. Steven Jacobsohn, a gastroenterologist and member of our Editorial Board. What the studies do show is that squatting straightens the angle between the rectum and anus, allowing for more relaxed and complete elimination, which, in theory at least, may help with constipation and hemorrhoids.
Even if toilet squatting facilitates bowel movements, it's a hard position to assume if you’re not used to it. You must be pretty limber. Plus, western bathrooms are not equipped with squatting toiletsand devices that retro-fit your regular toilet can be risky. A more practical way to avoid constipation is to increase your fiber intake and become more physically active.
Adapted from The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (January 2012)