Recent studies have shown that the traditional squat toilet may be healthier than the Western seated toilet. While this idea has had currency for years, recent studies have precisely measured the anatomical differences between sitting and squatting and found that squatting may be both easier and faster.
Squatting has been found to have health benefits, including preventing painful haemorrhoids. It has also been found to be a faster method of relieving oneself. A 2003 study by Israeli doctor Dov Sikirov found that it took squatters an average of 51 seconds to move their bowels while it took those seated an average of 130 seconds. This year, Japanese scientists filled subjects’ bowels with a contrast solution and filmed them with X-ray video to find out the precise anatomical differences. They found that squatting straightens the rectoanal canal and thus requires less strain for defecation.
Squatting is the natural pose for relieving oneself and until the mid 19th century was the only way to go. Since then, flushing seated toilets have become standard in western and middle class Sri Lankan homes though the majority of the world still uses the squatting variety. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.2 billion people still practice open defecation.
Sanitary toilets, however, were present in many ancient civilizations including Anuradhapura. The Harrapan civilization in Pakistan and Northern India had water flushing toilets in the 26th century BC. The main posture, however, was squatting for the millions of years of human existence until inventors like Thomas Crapper popularized the modern seated, flushing toilet in the late 1800s.
The modern squat toilet, while still efficacious, has acquired a stigma associated with the poor sanitation of many parts of the third world. Open defecation is the most unsanitary practice as it doesn’t separate waste from the environment. Modern squat toilets, however, do separate the waste through conventional sewage systems.
According to the Mayo Clinic in America, half of all Americans have to deal with painful hemorrhoids (or piles) by age 50. In the Japanese study by Sakakibara, Tsunoyama et al they say, “In contrast to Western countries, in Asian and African countries, their dietary habits and use of a squatting posture might contribute to the very low incidence of haemorrhoids, constipation and diverticulosis… In addition, lower abdominal pressure on squatting defecation might reduce the risk of defecation syncope, deep vein thrombosis, and stroke. Therefore, a new toiletry commode incorporating both Western and Eastern approaches is anticipated.”
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