Q: Is squatting a better way to go to the bathroom? Can it reduce constipation?
A: There isn’t enough research to know for sure. Squatting was the typical way to defecate before the flush toilet became popular in the mid-19th century—and is still the most common position used around the world.
A few small studies suggest that squatting may have some benefits. For example, in an Israeli study back in 2003, people took less time to defecate and reported straining less while squatting, compared to when they sat on a normal or low toilet. In 2010, a small Japanese study found that there was less build-up of abdominal pressure when people squatted, suggesting that less effort is needed to defecate.
“There haven’t been studies published that show that squatting actually reduces constipation,” says Steven Jacobsohn, MD, a gastroenterologist and member of our editorial board. “But there are enough anecdotal reports that this position helps with constipation to consider trying this technique.”
Even if squatting facilitates bowel movements, it’s a hard position to assume if you’re not used to it. You must be fairly limber. Western bathrooms are not equipped with squatting toilets, but several specially designed toilet stools are available (such as the Squatty Potty) that you place at the base of the toilet to raise your feet so you are in more of a squatting position. One of the best ways to avoid constipation, however, is to increase your fiber intake and become more physically active.
Originally published January 2012. Updated August 2019. This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Constipated? Try Mango.