If you are thinking of a bathroom remodel or update, you’re probably envisioning new tile and vanities, new cabinets or a soaker tub and fancy fixtures.  What may not be at the top of your plans is the one thing I rarely see in bathrooms but it or something similar should be.  That is a “Squatty Potty®”!    First, what is a Squatty Potty, and then why would you want – why do you NEED one.

The “Squatty Potty” is the registered brand for what is considered a toilet accessory stool.  It is shaped to fit around the base of the toilet and can be slid out, so that it is used as a foot rest while seated on the toilet.  By resting your feet in an elevated position while on the toilet, it brings the body into a position that mimics squatting.  After being told by her physician that squatting might help relieve her constipation, this particular version was launched in 2012 by Judy Edwards and her son. The company did extremely well from the beginning, but then it appeared on Season 6 of Shark Tank and generated the same sales revenue in that single night as it had in its whole first year – $1 Million! An add for the product debuted that fall, featuring a prince and a pooping unicorn. In the first three months, it had garnered over 36 million views on social media platforms.  Pooping, or not pooping, is definitely something people are interested in!

Why? Because, according to the American College of Gastroenterology, constipation is a big problem in the US.  It is one of the most frequent abdominal complaints, generating no less than 2.5 million doctor visits per year.  This number is likely not nearly representative of the prevalence of the issue, as many individuals deal with or treat constipation on their own, without seeking medical advice.  WebMD puts the number of people frequently experiencing constipation at 40 million. This may be why annual laxative sales are in the hundreds of millions of dollars’ range.  If these statistics are true, then it is very likely you or someone you know has experienced constipation and might benefit from a Squatty Potty®.

So, what is constipation?  As defined by the American Academy of Family Physicians, a person is considered constipated if they have fewer than three bowel movements a week, if they must strain to have those bowel movements, have incomplete bowel movements or are left feeling as if the rectum is blocked. There are many causes of constipation, ranging from simple dietary habits, such as not drinking enough water, to serious health concerns that need to be managed by a physician. Because there are so many reasons a person might be constipated, the Squatty Potty really only addresses one potentially contributing factor – position.

You will find experts on both sides of the argument as to whether or not squatting is beneficial if you already have pretty normal bowel movements.  “Normal” certainly varies from one individual to another, so there is “your normal” and what is thought of as normal for the general population as a whole.

The Bristol stool scale is used to classify the form and texture of a bowel movement.  Then, most health experts define “normal” as one bowel movement a day with no straining.  However, these same experts will also state that the range of “normal” in frequency may be anywhere from three times a week to three times a day!  The key seems have less to do with frequency than it does the ease with which it happens.  Some will argue that squatting helps prevent not only constipation, but hemorrhoids and a host of other issues.  Others will say the few studies done were insufficient to make such long term claims.  What they do agree on is that there is no harm in squatting to poop and that it might be of benefit to some people.  Conclusion?  Give it a try!

Here is why squatting may help relieve constipation.  The puborectalis is a sling of muscle wrapping around the rectum that has been sometimes classified as the deep layer of the external sphincter.  It is really a distinct skeletal muscle responsible for changing the anorectal angle of the rectum.  When contracted, the anorectal angle becomes more acute, bending up toward the head and effectively putting a kink in the tube and helping insure fecal continence.    When this muscle is relaxed, the angle becomes more obtuse or wide, allowing the bend in the rectum to move into a more open and straight position.

Of course, you should always seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider if you are experiencing any gastrointestinal distress.  It is very important to rule out any serious conditions that might be causing your issues. The following are some simple lifestyle suggestions, in addition to adopting a toilet posture that mimics squatting, that may help alleviate constipation:

• Increase your fluid intake, and specifically pure water.

• Increase your intake of whole vegetables and fruits that will contain more fiber

• Avoid any food allergies or intolerances: gluten and dairy are often problematic for people who tend toward constipation.

• Consumer more fermented foods or add in a probiotic

• Move – regular intentional exercise and general activity throughout the day

• Check with your physician about medications that might be contributing to constipation

• See a holistic or integrative practitioner for recommendations on specific foods, herbs or nutrients that might help.

• Do not rely on laxatives for long term regular bowel movements

As a side note, there are specific populations such as babies, pregnant mothers, the elderly and more who may have issues with constipation unique to them.  A common but often missed side effect of constipation in children is bed wetting.  This is definitely a topic worth reading up on if this might be your child.

Naturopathic Doctors are infamous for talking to their patients in depth about poop and bowel habits.  This is because it can be such an important indicator of many other health situations.  This article just barely touches on the topic, but I hope it makes it a little easier to start that conversation with family and whichever healthcare provider you can most comfortably do so.

Dr. Summer Beattie,ND was born and grew up in Southeawst Alaska – it will always be home.  A 2004 graduate of Bastyr University, she served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and has worked in a variety of primary and specialty care settings.  This has given her a broad wealth of experience that she now uses in a unique clinical practice with a focus on rejuvenative physical and aesthetic medicine. Dr. Beattie,ND offers comprehensive care as it relates to physical rehabilitation from a Naturopathic Orthopedic perspective. You can find her and on-line patient programs at www.onehealingmedical.com