Image: via Mega Curioso
Image: via Mega Curioso
It’s a necessary task that you probably perform every day and yet still do the wrong way. That’s right: you may think that you know everything there is to know about pooping, but as it turns out, you actually don’t. What’s more, the way you do it could even be damaging your health.
The problem lies with the flushing toilet – an invention that, from the mid-19th century onward, made the pooping process altogether more civilized.
The then-novel contraption was healthier as well, for it eliminated the need to have to defecate in disease-spreading ditches. What the invention’s creators – and, of course, its users – failed to understand, though, was how it could potentially damage our insides.
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That’s all down to one crucial thing: that human beings just aren’t meant to sit down when we drop the kids off at the pool.
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Instead, we’re supposed to squat – pretty much what our ancestors did for hundreds of thousands of years. Come the time Thomas Crapper popularized the lavatory a few generations ago, however, everything suddenly changed.
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Squatting may feel weird to those more accustomed to perching on porcelain, but it actually enables the intestines to elongate – thus easing the passage, so to speak.
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When we sit down, by contrast, a kink remains in situ within the intestines. The kink’s existence has both pros and cons. After all, it saves us from having rather embarrassing random accidents; but also, when we do need to go, the surrounding muscles have to work harder to push out what’s no longer needed.
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This doo-doo discovery has been emphasized by Giulia Enders, a German microbiologist based at Frankfurt’s Institute for Medical Microbiology. She’s someone that U.K. newspaper The Guardian has described as being “charmingly obsessed with the gut, gut bacteria and poo.”
In an interview with the publication, Enders explained that the 1.2 billion people across the globe who continue to squat “have almost no incidence of diverticulosis [something that can result in rectal bleeding] and fewer problems with piles.”
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By contrast, she added, people in the West tend to “squeeze our gut tissue until it comes out of our bottoms” – a warning that we’re doing it wrong if ever there were one.
Fortunately, Enders has said that we don’t have to start squatting over our toilets to avoid rupturing our rectums. Rather, the scientist recommended sitting down as normal but also resting the feet on a small stool – the furniture kind, that is.
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When we’re good and ready, she added, we should also lean forward – a position that will result in the intestinal kink straightening out and the poop effortlessly leaving the body in the way that nature intended.
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It’s not just the kink, though, that we should be thinking about when we poop. According to Enders, there’s another part of our anatomy that we have been taking for granted for too long, and now it’s coming back to bite us on the backside. Well, almost.
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The ani internus – also known as the inner sphincter – performs a vital role in essentially deciding whether it’s okay to break wind or defecate. The problem, however, is that some of us are uncomfortable with farting or pooping in communal bathrooms or even our own homes if others are around; as a result, we disregard our own bodily urges until it’s “safer” to indulge them.
Image: James Heilman, MD
If we ignore our inner sphincter too often, Enders has explained, it will basically assume that it’s redundant and cease to function properly – something, moreover, that can lead to constipation.
Image: WEDC (Rod Shaw)
The microbiologist’s research is published in her book Charming Bowels, though interestingly her conclusions in relation to squatting were first mooted more than a decade ago.
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In 2003 Israeli scientist Dov Sikirov asked 28 study participants to compare pooping while sitting on a toilet – at heights of approximately 16 inches and 12 inches – with pooping while squatting. The average squatting poop, it was discovered, lasted 50 seconds, while the average sitting poop took a much longer 130 seconds.
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In his conclusion, Dr. Sikirov wrote that sitting while defecating “necessitates excessive expulsive effort compared to the squatting posture.” Perhaps, then, we should be taking Enders’ advice regarding the stool and leaning forward, especially if we’re in a rush.
We should also, it seems, be heeding her recommendation on listening to our two sphincters – not just the outer, more familiar one but also the ani internus about which the researcher appears so passionate.
Image: Ruiwen Chua
Very passionate, in fact. As Enders told The Guardian, “Learning about those two sphincters really changed my perspective on life. Those inner nerves don’t care for other people; they have no eyes or ears. Finally, something that only thinks of me! So, now I can go to the toilet anywhere. I worship that muscle!”