Can a New Generation of Toilets Fix the Way We Poop?
The most important seat in the house is getting a much needed makeover that could end up having a huge impact on our health.
image via (cc) flickr user emdot
Sure, everybody poops, but not all poop is created equal. In fact, much of the world goes about the very act of creating poop all wrong. You see, something important happened when our species started using the modern flush toilet. Yes, we took an exponential leap forward in terms of sanitation and cleanliness, but at the cost of our proper pooping posture.
I’m talking about squatting.
While squatting is a tried and true defecation method in places like Asia and the Middle East (oftentimes resulting from a lack of access to adequate bathroom facilities) it’s been out of vogue for much of the western world ever since toilets modeled to look like ordinary chairs became the norm. But while those seats may look nice, they’re actually detrimental to our body’s natural inclination when it comes to number two.
Sitting with our back straight, and our legs planted at a 90 degree angle in front of us doesn’t fully release the puborectalis muscle, which regulates the exit of material from the colon. Squatting, on the other hand, does, and has the added benefit of applying additional pressure to our upper digestive tract, as we pull our knees into our stomach. What’s more, by reducing the amount of strain on our sphincters, squatting can even ease the conditions which lead to hemorrhoids. In 2003, Israeli medical researcher Dov Sikirov published the results of a particularly poopy study which seemed to confirm that sitting down to use the toilet requires “excessive expulsive effort” as compared to squatting, writing:
“Both the time needed for sensation of satisfactory bowel emptying and the degree of subjectively assessed straining in the squatting position were reduced sharply in all volunteers compared with both sitting positions”
In other words, sitting may work, but squatting seems to be what our body is designed to do.
Fortunately, the past several years have seen a surge in ergonomically inclined designers who turning their creative eyes toward the humble toilet, in the hopes of creating a bathroom experience that’s better looking, and better feeling, than what many of us in places where squatting isn’t the norm have now.
In 2013, drainage and plumbing specialists Dyno-Rod held a competition in which a series of concept models were commissioned to re-imagine the standard toilet. The winning design, the Wellbeing Toilet, was created by three graduates of London’s Central Saint Martins’ art school, and is as much a place to do one’s business as it is a work of ergonomic art.
A number of other companies have also gotten into the proper-pooping game. The Squatty Potty, for example, doesn’t re-imagine the toilet itself, but rather is a modular step-stool which allows anyone to tuck into a squatting position without having to replace an expensive bathroom fixture outright.
Similar to the Squatty Potty, the Lilipad is a different step-stool design which allows for multiple squat positions while using a standard flush toilet:
Add to these ranks other products, such as the Sandun-Evaco Toilet Converter, or Nature’s Platform and it becomes clear that, while the standard flush toilet as we know it still largely rules the roost, a new generation of both modular and wholesale fixes are aiming to reinvent how we use the bathroom, starting from the bottom up.
Of course, squatting is possible on a normal toilet, without having to resort to ergonomic re-designs or modular add ons. However, to do so means running the risk of losing your balance mid-squat, toppling over to the side at your most vulnerable moment. Still, the promise of a better bathroom experience may mean that the old way of using the toilet is, well, due to take a seat.