If you're in the nutrition world, or interested in it (which is why you probably read this blog!) you most definitely will have realized that we nutritionists concern ourselves an awful lot with poop. Pooping - how many times per day, the consistency, colour, volume, diameter. All these things matter to us and are discussed thoroughly with clients. It's nothing to be embarrassed about, we're over this bowel taboo by now...right? Everybody poops.
I take the "we're over it" thing to the next level and bring poop up a lot. I love talking about it so much so that Meghan has named me her official "poop-erstar".
Okay. Hear me out. Going #2 is super important. The primary key to health lies in our digestion. If we don't digest probably, dis-ease will ultimately ensue. A fundamental component of this is proper elimination and one of our channels of elimination is our bowels. Food goes in, waste comes out. It is something many people take for granted, but those of us who have encountered IBD, IBS, and other digestive woes never under appreciate the glory of a good poop. Stay with me here as we explore this notion of a good bowel movement a little further...
Although we all use the toilet, this contraption isn't actually doing us any favours in the pooping department. Sitting on the toilet, like how we sit on a normal chair, sets us up for bowel troubles including constipation, hernias, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and appendicitis. Yuck! This is because the way we position ourselves on the toilet is pretty unnatural.
The toilet isn't something that was used waaaaaay back when. It first became popular around 1850 in England and was originally designed by a watchmaker. This was approximately the same time that plumbing made its appearance. This meant cleaner disposal of all the poop that was previously being dumped out on the street or stored in chamber pots. This was really a matter of convenience more than anything else.
If we look to ancient societies or areas of the world where the toilet is not used, we find that bowel problems are essentially non-existent.
Why is this?
A major reason is that they utilize the squatting position to poop. Yup, they pop-a-squat camping styles. In fact, in places such as France, Italy, South America, and China, often the toilet is just a hole in the floor and you have no choice but to squat!
Why is the squatting position so amazing for our bowel health?
- When performing the squat, the bowel is supported and held in alignment through the thighs' contact with the abdominal wall.
- By squatting, we ensure that pressure is applied to the "cecum" and the "sigmoid". These are areas of the bowel which tend to accumulate fecal matter when the typical toilet position is taken. When these areas are not stimulated, elimination is incomplete and this allows toxins to proliferate and flood our bloodstream. The result is a larger toxic load which can then lead to a whole host of icky stuff from general fatigue and skin breakouts to heart disease and cancer.
- Sitting on the toilet encourages bowel fatigue and the pull of gravity. While fatigue causes loss of muscle tone in the bowel wall, gravity encourages prolapse of the transerve colon. Not fun.
- By squatting, we can avoid lower back and hip issues which are often symptomatic of "ileocecal-valve" dysfunction (this little part of our anatomy is support by squatting and prevents a reflux of fecal matter into the small intestine).
Now I'm not telling you to get rid of your toilet and drill a hole in your bathroom floor. There are ways to squat while still using the toilet.
To make this even easier, you can also place a foot stool in front of your toilet to mimic the squatting position. One of my instructors at nutrition school recommended stacking our textbooks in front of the toilet to help us achieve the squat. To me, this just seemed like a really expensive foot stool.
Whichever route you take, remember - you still have to wash your hands when you're done! Happy pooping!
Question Of The Day: What modern day device do you feel does more harm than good?