Months ago, I was flipping through Paleo Magazine when I spotted an ad for a newfangled bathroom apparatus which makes a squat toilet and promised to improve colon health and the quality of my pooping experience.
The premise was simple enough: Place your feet on their specially designed foot rest to create a squat toilet and assume a squatting position to defecate. Sitting kinks you out and puts upward pressure on the rectum, keeping feces inside. As a result, you strain. The squatting position, however, allows the thighs to be flexed and the abdomen to relax, giving you a perfectly easy poop.
It made sense. On top of everything else, industrialization had also messed up the way we shit. I dubbed the invention the “caveman toilet.” But could this simple stool really help me fully expel my feces?
Our hive members needed to find out.
Squat Toilet Training
Two-thirds of humanity still squats to answer the call of nature, just as our ancestors did. While it’s true that we no longer poop in open spaces like animals, many latrines around the world are minimally designed at best, even today. Travel to many parts of the world like Egypt, Peru, India, Africa, and Asia, and you will quickly and ruefully discover the complete lack of porcelain thrones to perch upon. You still need get down there and literally share a stinky hole in the ground to go number two.
Despite urban legend, a plumber by the name of Thomas Crapper did not invent the toilet. While such a man did indeed work on its functionality, it was in 1596 that a Sir John Harrington created the flushing toilet for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. He even installed the palace’s prototype.
Today, the modern toilet represents high-tech cleanliness, and yet more and more doctors, naturopaths and holistic health professionals have highlighted its health drawbacks.
The Caca Chronicles
In 2003, Israeli doctor Dov Sikirov put the theory of squatting to poop to the test. The results? “Squatters” took an average of 51 seconds for a bowel movement while “sitters” took an average of 130 seconds.
Meanwhile, Stanford University’s Pelvic Floor Clinic requires all constipation and incontinence sufferers to squat as part of their treatment protocol. Since squatting on the floor “cannot be recommended for sanitary reasons,” the clinic suggests patients elevate their feet with the use of a stool. This regimen is also especially helpful for women suffering from pelvic floor and bladder issues.
When I learned about the Stanford protocol, I recalled how I had begun to squat over our toilet in days following a urinary tract infection. It helped relax my urethral and bladder muscles. Now, I was even more intrigued.
It turns out that a few versions of the “cavemen toilet” are currently marketed. I contacted the makers of the Squatty Potty, who had designed the device advertised in Paleo Magazine. The inventors are 37-year-old Robert Edwards and his mom, Judy Edwards, from Saint George, Utah. Their mission: “To help change the way America poops, one stool at a time.”
I had the pleasure of speaking with Robert about the Squatty Potty and all things poop.
HC: Robert, how did this invention come about exactly?
RE: My mom had an issue with constipation and was advised to use a stool to elevate her feet. It worked. Things seemed to go more smoothly [pun intended, I’m certain]. Initially, she used phone books — we were trying to find out the most comfortable and most effective height.
I have some interior design background and schooling, and we have a friend who is a cabinet woodworker. My mom and I went to him with our ideas; we tried five or six different prototypes. When we got the perfect design that was comfortable, convenient, and effective (and easily stored at the base of the toilet to prevent clutter), we decided to make several all at once.
The first 20 stools, my mom gave away as Christmas gifts in 2010. They were a hit — and then it struck us that this was viable commercially, and that it was helpful and there was a need for it.
HC: How long have you been around and how many Squatty Potties have you sold?
RE: Within two weeks, requests were pouring in, and Squatty Potty commercial production began. Since December of 2010, we have sold over 20,000 stools to all 50 states and every continent.
HC: Can you tell us a little bit more about your mission? Do you have a strategy?
RE: We have set out to educate the public on the importance of proper toilet posture. The modern toilet, though convenient and sanitary, has one major fault, it requires that we sit. Sitting causes excessive straining. Straining is linked to many health problems including constipation and hemorrhoids and many of the irritable bowl issues.
We have been promoting proper bathroom posture nationwide, through interviews on National Public Radio and Huffington Post and major network television shows. Our main talking point is always bathroom posture, followed by the use of toilet stools such as the Squatty Potty. We also are looking into creating a squat toilet that can be used with Western plumbing.
HC: Changing our pooping stance can definitely help relieve hemorrhoids and prevent colon disease and gastrointestinal issues. But I also believe what we eat is very, very important. Did your mother also change the way she ate during her path to wellness?
RE: I also agree that ingredients are key to a fully integrated health regimen. Yes, she’s more aware of what she’s eating, and she’s switched to eating more mindfully produced food.
Also, with the help of our family friend Denley Fowlke, who is also the co-founder of Sunwarrior Products, she’s created a once-a-day stool softener with organic aloe, rhubarb, probiotics, and enzymes. It’s called Good Move. Over time, the peristalsis — the action of the muscles moving waste — gets sluggish, and Good Move helps you achieve a normal BM (a.k.a. bowel movement).
HC: I feel that the Squatty Potty makes my pooping experience easier. What is the most common feedback you hear?
RE: Honestly, the most common thing I hear from people is, “I love my Squatty Potty!” We have developed a cult following of sorts. Many people have truly “changed the way they poop” and will never return.
HC: Is the Squatty Potty used with the elderly?
RE: Yes, we recently issued a press release speaking directly to seniors who are now finding that things have slowed down in the bathroom for them. We have many happy senior clients. My grandmother, who is 84, wouldn’t give up her “poop stool” for anything.
HC: How did you land on Dr. Oz?
RE: We sold a Squatty Potty to a producer — she loved it and mentioned it to the staff. They decided to put it on the show!
HC: Who have been some unlikely converts?
RE: My brother-in-law. He thought the whole thing was ridiculous. My sister then discovered he was using it. When confronted, he confessed that he was a true convert. We get stories from women who bought it for themselves and have converted their partners to squatting.
HC: Also, is there any way to get the stools produced in the United States instead of China?
RE: Squatty Potties are now made exclusively in Utah. We moved the molds back a few weeks ago. Also, we are working on a new model that will be made of Arbofill instead of plastic. Arbofill is a made of renewables and is compostable and recyclable.
HC: What was the last good book or movie you read or saw?
RE: I just watched the film The Sessions. (The movie tells the story of a man confined to an iron lung who is determined at age 38 to lose his virginity. With the help of his therapists and the guidance of his priest, he sets out to make his dream a reality.) I loved it. I loved how candid they were about a topic that can be very taboo, much like toilet and potty talk.
We at Squatty Potty have tackled a topic that is traditionally taboo and decided it was important enough to cast aside those worries and start the discussion.
Watch the educational video about the effects of improper toilet posture and how it can affect your health. How using a squat toilet or Squatty Potty toilet stool can help with straining issues such as hemorrhoids, pelvic organ prolapse, constipation, bloating, and IBS:
Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, professional researcher, and producer of the award-winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees.
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