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SQUAT - DON'T SIT!!!
June 30, 2006 6:00 AM   Subscribe

Is doing it in the squat position natural and strain preventing [Human digestion warning]? Regular toilet "thrones" seem to be not very ergonomic, with dire consequences. A study. Colon cancer rates in the developing world (where squatting is still used) way lower.
posted by vertriebskonzept (73 comments total)

 
Correlation is not causation; people in developing countries have vastly different diets and get more exercise. I suggest that these things are likely to be the reason for the difference in colon cancer rates.
posted by Justinian at 6:06 AM on June 30, 2006


Must be the toilets. Couldn't been diet or lifestyle differences. Or the difference in lifespans.
posted by yerfatma at 6:13 AM on June 30, 2006


This might be good dessert talk.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:23 AM on June 30, 2006


The widespread use of books causes lung cancer.
posted by oddman at 6:24 AM on June 30, 2006


Love this line, in the Yale Daily News article about the inventor of the "squat platform" (article is linked from the first article in this post):

Eventually, Isbit graduated with a degree in computer science from Rutgers University, realizing, he said, that "computers were a more dharmic thing" for him to do. He moved on to North Carolina in 1996 for a life of quiet introspection and progressive bowel movements, working as a computer programmer at the Heavenly Mountain Resort.
posted by jayder at 6:25 AM on June 30, 2006


Correlation is not causation; people in developing countries have vastly different diets and get more exercise. I suggest that these things are likely to be the reason for the difference in colon cancer rates.

Even more likely: people in developing countries are probably far less likely to get regular prostrate exams starting at 40. This isn't number of cases of prostate cancer, it's number of cases diagnosed.
posted by malphigian at 6:25 AM on June 30, 2006


What about the rates off falling off the platform recommended in that article, and cracking your skull on the bathtub?
posted by tastybrains at 6:26 AM on June 30, 2006


Well ok, the difference in lifespans is a very good point. Still i bet that this is a factor that adds into the equation. Diet: they have higher other digestion system cancer rates (i.e.stomach) but lower colon. It's not a proof or anything I know, just a correlation that encourages more research.

I can only say, that it helped me, and I thought "wow, why did nobody tell me that?". And that was the reason for this post.
posted by vertriebskonzept at 6:26 AM on June 30, 2006



posted by sohcahtoa at 6:26 AM on June 30, 2006


*sigh* prostate exams. I'm not sure what a prostrate exam would be, but I imagine it wouldn't be much more fun than the former. You could probably combine the two, though.
posted by malphigian at 6:27 AM on June 30, 2006


I read a study once that proved conclusively - Children with bigger feet score higher when given an arbitrary 6th grade math test. Of course....... children with bigger feet are more likely to older and have actually taken 6th grade math.

vertriebskonzept - Please do not attempt science. It's not your thing. Stick to wood shop. Blocks. Hammers. Maybe a saw if you're feeling adventurous. But the scientific method? No. Please stop plying with that.
posted by Binkeeboo at 6:27 AM on June 30, 2006


Of course, there are risks to squatting, too.
posted by sohcahtoa at 6:30 AM on June 30, 2006


In Kyrgyzstan, when we were building our new school, I complained to my director that the (western style) toilets did not have seats installed. She told me they would quickly be destroyed, they were intentionally left out.

Sure enough, the students mostly used the toilet by standing on the rim and squatting.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:32 AM on June 30, 2006


I like how the "developing world" (i.e.: most of it) is lumped into one big, undifferentiated squatting mass.
posted by signal at 6:38 AM on June 30, 2006


I prefer standing when I shit.
posted by NationalKato at 6:39 AM on June 30, 2006


MetaFilter: one big, undifferentiated squatting mass.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:39 AM on June 30, 2006


And do any of those kids have colon cancer? I bet not. Hell, I bet they don't have lung or breast cancer either. You know what I'm getting at. It's time to move to Kyrgyzstan, baby.
posted by drpynchon at 6:40 AM on June 30, 2006


I once knew a guy who shit out his insides. 911 was called and that's how they took him and his innards (which were now outards) on the stretcher.

Unfortunately, him telling me this has led me to think of it every time I'm having trouble doing #2 and the idea of it scares the hell out of me. I just thought I'd share that with you.
posted by dobbs at 6:41 AM on June 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


vertriebskonzept, I wasn't criticizing the post or saying that there aren't any advantages to squatting; I suspect that it might indeed lead to a reduced rate of, say, hemorrhoids. But I don't believe it makes a difference with colon cancer.
posted by Justinian at 6:42 AM on June 30, 2006


Stupid. But amusingly stupid, so there's that, at least.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:47 AM on June 30, 2006


Shitfilter.
posted by jonmc at 6:49 AM on June 30, 2006


dobbs that's terrifying. what caused it?
posted by bonaldi at 6:53 AM on June 30, 2006


Apropoo, er, apropos of this -- I recently read, possibly in Private Eye, that there is 'anecdotal evidence' suggesting Americans prefer to 'scrunch', whereas we Brits 'fold'.

Such fundamental cultural differences should not be lightly pooh-poohed.
posted by Bletch at 6:55 AM on June 30, 2006


Clench and release, folks. Clench and release.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:01 AM on June 30, 2006


dobbs, he crapped out his insides and lived to tell about it?
posted by tastybrains at 7:03 AM on June 30, 2006


I served with Squat. I knew Squat. Squat was a friend of mine.
These researchers don't know Squat.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:04 AM on June 30, 2006


Before mentioning the correlation, the FPP provides a link describing the mechanism by which this would happen. The first link explains:

Oncologists have observed that 80% of colon cancers occur in the caecum and the sigmoid colon, the two areas that are not fully evacuated in the sitting posture. This causes fecal stagnation

The FPP even provides the PubMed citation for an article published in Digestive Diseases Sciences. The correlation offered at the end is merely further evidence, not the argument in its entirety. You can argue it if you like, but it's an idea with some currency among specialists, and it hasn't been presented here without sufficient evidence to warrant consideration. I tend to think most people here simply didn't RTFA.
posted by jefgodesky at 7:05 AM on June 30, 2006


Yes, but do you know Jack Shit?
posted by jonmc at 7:05 AM on June 30, 2006


This is MetaFilter, jefgodesky. People tend to post at least 3-4 snarky comments prior to reading the linked articles closely.
posted by NationalKato at 7:09 AM on June 30, 2006


I love the comments after the first link:


As I am a big scientist I made a lot of experiments on myself trying to find a way to deal with what I thought was a psychological problem.


I would like to hear more about your pooping-related self-experiments, 25 year old French guy.
posted by SassHat at 7:12 AM on June 30, 2006


But given that the user is even further from the surface of the water, what about the increased potential for Splashback?
posted by R. Mutt at 7:17 AM on June 30, 2006


Wow. All jokes aside, whether or not there's a connection between squatting and colon cancer rates, this definitely seems like it has SOME effect. Does anybody deny (have evidence) that people would be less healthy if they squatted more?
posted by ryran at 7:19 AM on June 30, 2006


Metafilter: This causes fecal stagnation.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:20 AM on June 30, 2006


My first experience squatting in a public toilet was in Ninohe, Japan, at a karaoke bar. Being a stranger to the trough-like toilet in the floor of the stall, it took me an extra ten minutes to assure myself that my pants were out of the way. Honestly, squatting did make it a lot easier to go and I wasn't concerned about the cleanliness of any plastic or porcelain seat, seeing as how I never touched one. However, it was a bit strange having my shit just lying there in the trough, instead of submerged in water.

That's my poop story.
posted by NationalKato at 7:21 AM on June 30, 2006


Metafilter: That's my poop story.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:34 AM on June 30, 2006


Having lived in SE Asia for several years, I mastered the squatting technique. It has it's strengths, but I still prefer the sitting method. I would compare the two approaches to kneading bread dough: squatting is like kneading it in your hands with no table; sitting like kneading dough on a table. I prefer to have a foundation. Also, when I was squatting most of the time, my reading time was severely reduced.

Finally, what Justinian said in the very first post is spot on.
posted by squirrel at 7:35 AM on June 30, 2006


But given that the user is even further from the surface of the water, what about the increased potential for Splashback?

With a proper squat toliet like you see in Asia, there's no water in the basin, so there's no splashback.

I live in a place where most public shitters are squatters, so I can squat in an emergency. But I can't balance on the heels of my feet while squatting, so I'm leaning forward on the balls of my feet, which is a bitch on my shins.
posted by alidarbac at 7:36 AM on June 30, 2006


That's cool, sohcahtoa, though at first I thought it was for the obese.
posted by scarabic at 7:37 AM on June 30, 2006


I one knew a woman with a behind so fine she could stand with both feet flat on the ground and shit in a dumptster.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 AM on June 30, 2006


They can market to different verticles.
posted by sohcahtoa at 7:45 AM on June 30, 2006


I swear I corrected that spelling.
posted by sohcahtoa at 7:48 AM on June 30, 2006


Yeah, this all sounds good except for it being difficult to read.
posted by everichon at 7:54 AM on June 30, 2006


metafilter: its getting old.
posted by Kifer85 at 8:02 AM on June 30, 2006


Ther may be merit in squatting, but any explanation that involves "toxins" loses a lot of credibility points, as does the company it shares on the site, such as Ear Candles, The Secret Solfeggio Frequencies: Sound Vibration Rates for Creation and Destruction and Why Blessing Your Food is So Important.
posted by raygirvan at 8:19 AM on June 30, 2006


I don't know about cancer--wouldn't surprise me--but there are some more established medical problems that arise from sitting to shit:

Sikirov BA, 1988, "Etiology and pathogenesis of diverticulosis coli: a new approach" Med Hypotheses. 1988 May;26(1):17-20.

Sikirov BA, 1989, "Primary constipation: an underlying mechanism" Med Hypotheses. 1989 Feb;28(2):71-3.

I don't know if Dr. Sikirov is simply the go-to guy on posture, shitting, and long term health problems, or if he's just an obsessed maverick--or both, never discount the possibility of both--but the hypothesis seems sensible enough to me.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:29 AM on June 30, 2006


He only crapped them out a bit from what I understand. They were a-danglin', was the impression I got. He was a friend of a friend and the friend mentioned it with him around and he turned bright red and was fuming mad my friend had mentioned it. I don't think I was being put on. However, I'm grossed out by things like that so didn't press for details. All I know is that some portion of his insides came out his ass while he was on the toilet and that he was taken away by ambulance with them hanging like that. I didn't want to know anymore.
posted by dobbs at 8:31 AM on June 30, 2006


I was really hoping for more poop jokes.
posted by jeffmik at 8:34 AM on June 30, 2006


My doctor sister tells me there's a much lower incidence of broken hips in squatting cultures. It seems the daily workout keeps the bones dense and strong. Now that makes sense to me. That colon cancer link seems fishy, or, if I may: he's full of shit.

Also, a lot of women "hover" when using a public toilet to avoid touching the toilet seat. So..., there is that.

Me, I poop in the urinal.

...just for shits and grins...
posted by LordSludge at 8:55 AM on June 30, 2006


The colon cancer rates apparently did not account for lifespan. The likelihood of all forms of cancer increases with aging. Perhaps colon cancer rates in particular are shifted towards the upper age brackets. Therefore, countries with higher average lifespans might have higher colon cancer rates.

Granted, I have no evidence to support this hypothesis.
posted by bshock at 9:00 AM on June 30, 2006


Hemorrhoids & abrasions -> Inflammation -> higher chance of C.C.
posted by vertriebskonzept at 9:07 AM on June 30, 2006


This barmaid of my acquaintance once had a purse with a figure of a particularly well-known bear of very little brain on it.
I said: "You have a little Pooh on your purse!"
She said: "Yea, and I've got Tigger on my ass, what of it?"
That was some bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun fun fun.
posted by Floydd at 9:35 AM on June 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


jefgodesky: I don't know about cancer--wouldn't surprise me--but there are some more established medical problems that arise from sitting to shit:

Sikirov BA, 1988, "Etiology and pathogenesis of diverticulosis coli: a new approach" Med Hypotheses. 1988 May;26(1):17-20.

Sikirov BA, 1989, "Primary constipation: an underlying mechanism" Med Hypotheses. 1989 Feb;28(2):71-3.

I don't know if Dr. Sikirov is simply the go-to guy on posture, shitting, and long term health problems, or if he's just an obsessed maverick--or both, never discount the possibility of both--but the hypothesis seems sensible enough to me.


B.A. Sikirov has five such speculative papers (1987-1990) listed in medline. The arguments make sense, but the abstracts don't show the original or supporting research (which might be in those papers). There is a somewhat detailed discussion here. There's also a paper by Dov Sikirov (related?) published in 2003, that surveys "straining" and "satisfaction" and measures duration of evacuation, for sitting vs. squatting.

dobbs: He only crapped them out a bit from what I understand.

That's probably rectal prolapse.

People of the Western world, try adding some fiber to your diet and try not to obsess over this stuff.
posted by zennie at 10:18 AM on June 30, 2006


try adding some fiber to your diet

It'll speed up your downloads. Fat pipes. Long packets.
posted by pracowity at 10:31 AM on June 30, 2006


Metafilter: metafilter: its getting old.

I’ve done both. I prefer sitting down and taking my time. Also reading. And, if you jog, it tends to shake things loose better than a cup of coffee in the morning. It’s tough to do any legwork then squat without some side support at least.
You’d have to completely redesign American bathrooms - at least in households.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:48 AM on June 30, 2006


On flights inside China and from China to the U.S., I've noticed an uncomfortably high prevalence of footprints on the toilet seat.

posted by squirrel I would compare the two approaches to kneading bread dough: squatting is like kneading it in your hands with no table; sitting like kneading dough on a table.

Well, there goes my dessert of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream. Thanks for that.
posted by fandango_matt at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2006


poop!
posted by shoepal at 11:20 AM on June 30, 2006


I figure you're pretty safe squatting, provided you don't do it at Disneyland.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:24 AM on June 30, 2006


I did nothing but squat for six months out of the year when doing archaeology work in China back in the late 90s (by now the western toilet has probably infiltrated that town). One thing I know for sure is that it's easier to go, and I've thought about putting in a platform just for that reason.

Then I remember the nights I had to go and in that state of sleepiness having an absolutely difficult time.

What I really need is a platform on pneumatics that pops up after I sit down. Then I can hit the button if I choose to squat, or leave it be if I'm too drowsy to want to squat.

Yeah. Never gonna happen.
posted by linux at 2:08 PM on June 30, 2006


Gentlemen, rest your sphincters.
posted by Gungho at 2:08 PM on June 30, 2006


Just give yourself an enema, it's fun, therapeutic and can expel the hard to reach feces. Everyone deserves a relaxing enema at least once a week.
posted by JJ86 at 2:17 PM on June 30, 2006


I can only say, that it helped me, and I thought "wow, why did nobody tell me that?". And that was the reason for this post. - vertriebskonzept

riiiight. PepsiBlue.
posted by raedyn at 2:18 PM on June 30, 2006


anecdotal evidence agrees that it's easier to go when squatting.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:08 PM on June 30, 2006


Westerners are usually freaked out when they see a squat toilet for the first time in Hong Kong.

Those interested can read more at my site.

Take the left hand menu, go to Different Dishes and click on Traumatic Toilet.
posted by bwg at 5:24 PM on June 30, 2006


Considering the physiology involved, it makes sense that squat-shitting is more efficient and effective than sit-shitting -- much as squatting during childbirth makes things a bit easier than lying flat on your back. I have some idea why the supine position became the standard for first-world obstetrics but I'm wondering about the transition here. Why did sitting become the "civilized" default?

Having been blessed with a cast-iron digestive system, I've never had any problems with either sitting or squatting. Though, as LordSludge points out, I was from girlhood taught the quad-strengthening hover technique--which began with standing on the toilet seat. A technique which I may use again, just to avoid the dreaded "fecal impaction." (What happens after it's been impacted for a while? Does it solidify? Fossilize? Ferment? Best just to avoid it altogether.)

A slight derail: Could be perception bias but this thread seems particularly low on XX MeFites. (Same for the thread commenting on "World Record #4: Peristaltic Action" -- though I certainly didn't read all 268 pages.) Any ideas on why that is?

Which leads me to one of life's enduring mysteries (and most likely the answer to my first question). Several posters have mentioned that one drawback to the squat is that it doesn't let them read.

WHY DO MEN HAVE TO READ WHILE THEY SHIT?

Really, what the hell is that about? I need to shit, I shit, I wipe and wash, and I'm done. Unless something's gone awry, there's no lingering, no contemplation, no reading. Same with roommates and other women whose toilet habits I'm familiar with, plus countless anecdotal examples.

What are you people doing in there?
posted by vetiver at 6:03 PM on June 30, 2006


I don't know the answer to your question, except to say that I really feel the urge when I'm in the library.
posted by found missing at 6:27 PM on June 30, 2006


The big problem with squat toilets is when you're not having a smooth, problem free bowel movement. Squatting isn't tiring in the short run, but when you've eaten something bad and just keep going, or, conversely, when it just won't come out, squatting is super tiring.

vetiver : "WHY DO MEN HAVE TO READ WHILE THEY SHIT?"
"What are you people doing in there?"

Reading.
posted by Bugbread at 6:39 PM on June 30, 2006


found missing : "I don't know the answer to your question, except to say that I really feel the urge when I'm in the library."

In case you haven't read it already, you might want to read this thread.
posted by Bugbread at 6:40 PM on June 30, 2006


Wow; it's a movement!
posted by found missing at 7:01 PM on June 30, 2006


Squatting is super tiring if you aren't used to it bugbread. If you are used to it, it's as easy as sitting or more so. For non yoga practicing westerners, I'd suggest shifting weight back and forth frequently to allow circulation.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:14 PM on June 30, 2006


Does this mean that nobody here can ever be president?
posted by briank at 8:09 PM on June 30, 2006


BrotherCaine : "Squatting is super tiring if you aren't used to it bugbread."

I lived in an apartment with a squat toilet for three years, while working in a workplace with only squat toilets, so I got plenty used to it, but long-term squats were always annoying to me. Regular squats, no problem.

This thread is entirely incomplete without seeing the video "How To Do The Asian Squat" from this post.
posted by Bugbread at 9:35 PM on June 30, 2006


Metafilter: Fun, therapeutic and can expel the hard-to-reach feces
posted by Mr. Six at 12:19 AM on July 1, 2006


Vetiver: excremeditation!
posted by flabdablet at 3:46 AM on July 1, 2006


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