How Does Squatting on the Toilet Help with Constipation?

Have you ever heard of the Squatty Potty? Advertised as the Original Bathroom Toilet Stool, the Squatty Potty was invented in 2010 by the Edwards family. After dealing with constipation themselves, they were told to try squatting to pass their bowels. This gave them the idea of the Squatty Potty. Now you are probably wondering: why would squatting help with passing stools? Let’s get an understanding of how digestion and bowel mechanics work.

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal tract (mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus), liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. Each piece of the digestive system helps break down food to smaller particles or helps move food through the digestive system. The mouth, for instance, is very important as you create an enzyme called amylase to help break down food. If you do not chew your food, amylase does not work as well and your GI system might have to work harder to break down the food you are eating, possibly causing a dysfunction in your digestive system.

The last 2-3 inches of the digestive system is your anus. There are two major muscles that make up the anus: internal and external sphincters. The sphincters play an important role in holding in your stool and keeping you continent. Another muscle that also plays a role in helping you hold in your bowels and is the muscle that makes the Squatty Potty function, is called your puborectalis. It attaches to your pubic bone and is a “U” shaped muscle that goes around the rectum.

When you are standing or sitting normally, the puborectalis muscle pinches off the rectum to help you maintain continence. This muscle relaxes if you position your knees higher than your hips, as per the image below. That’s why the Squatty Potty can help one pass stool, especially if you are constipated or trying to pass a harder stool.

Instead of going around and changing the toilets out in your home to shorter toilets, you can just buy a step stool or Squatty Potty. If you are needing to use a public restroom, I would recommend going up onto your tippy toes and leaning forward. This does not work as well as a step stool, but it is better than your hips at 90 or even 100 degrees of flexion. If you are at a friend’s house or using a toilet that has a movable trash can, place the trash can on its side and place your feet up on that. Ideally the Squatty Potty is the best because it is designed to fit right around your toilet and not take up much space, but any of the other suggestions are better than using nothing.  

Disclaimer:  The author has no vested interest in the Squatty Potty company. The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

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Dr. Ashlea Lytle

VP Colorado Region | Physical Therapist | Doctor of Physical Therapy
Ashlea Lytle is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who has been practicing for over a decade in the Denver area. She specializes in sports, general orthopedics, and pelvic health for adults and kids. She splits her time at Activcore in Castle Rock, CO (located inside Optimal Health Chiropractic) and at Activcore in Greenwood Village, CO (located inside Pilates Denver).
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