The makers of Squatty Potty claim they’ve designed a product that makes emptying the bowels easier and more comfortable by ensuring the user is squatting — not sitting — at the best angle and reducing strain. But what do experts think?
Claim #1: Squatty Potty creates the optimal angle
In the Squatty Potty video, the prince says that sitting on the toilet with your feet flat on the floor creates an angle that makes it harder for your bowels to empty.
This claim is based on a 2010 Japanese study that compared how effective it was to sit, sit with hips flexed, or squat while having a bowel movement. Squatting is similar to using the Squatty Potty. Researchers found that squatting created an angle in the rectal canal that led to less strain.
Ashkan Farhadi, MD, a gastroenterologist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, agrees.
“The Squatty Potty does increase the rectal canal angle from 100 degrees to 120 degrees,” he says. “When we increase the angle, the rectum opens up. When we want to have a bowel movement, we open the angle.”
This makes sense because the digestive system contains a series of sphincters, or rings of muscle that guard various openings. The anal sphincter expels waste from the body.
When you squat during a bowel movement, the sit bones are able to separate. This allows the sphincter to fully expand and waste to move through with the help of gravity.
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In a 2019 study to evaluate typical bowel patterns, 52 participants recorded their bowel movements for 4 weeks. After using the Squatty Potty for 2 weeks, participants reported:
- increased bowel emptiness
- reduced straining patterns
- reduced bowel movement duration
A 2017 study of 33 participants echoed these findings. Researchers found that pedestal toilet bowel movements, where the user is seated upon the toilet, took an average of 113.5 seconds. Meanwhile, using a footstool lowered the average to 55.5 seconds. All but one participant reported less effort in a squatting position.
Another 2019 study noted that in countries where squatting toilets are the norm, there are fewer incidences of several pelvic-related conditions. This may indicate that Western or pedestal toilets play a role in the onset of these diseases, including:
- pelvic or uterine prolapse
- irritable bowel syndrome
- inflammatory bowel disease
- colon cancer
- ulcerative colitis
The study also notes the role that British colonization may have played in introducing the pedestal toilet, once reserved for royalty and those with mobility limitations, to India and other nations which colonizers considered “primitive.”
Is it true? Yes. The Squatty Potty does create an angle to help the rectal canal be more open, and even those with average bowel patterns can benefit. Still, sitting normally also creates a reasonable angle for most people, Farhadi says.
Claim #2: We were designed to squat, not sit
The Squatty Potty uses a 2002 Iranian study to showcase how humans were naturally designed to squat rather than sit on a toilet.
Researchers asked participants to compare their experiences using unraised squat toilets and Western toilets. The participants deemed the squat toilets to be more comfortable and efficient. However, only 30 people participated in the study, none of them had any rectal problems, and they were already used to squatting for bowel movements.
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“The act of having a bowel movement is very complex. It’s much more than just the angle of the colon,” says Dr. Tom McHorse, a gastroenterologist at Austin Regional Clinic. Factors like the makeup of your stool — influenced by your diet, activity level, and overall health — also determine how easy it is for you to go to the bathroom.
Is it true? This point is contested. According to the 2019 study mentioned above, some believe that seated toilets are the legacy of colonization. Still, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove this.
“The claim that sitting is unnatural is not a correct claim,” says McHorse. “In a small number of patients this can be helpful, but the claim that we’re not made to sit on the toilet isn’t bound by scientific evidence.”
However, he notes that using the Squatty Potty won’t do any harm, and might even be helpful for certain people.
Claim #3: It helps bowel movement
According to another small 2003 study the Squatty Potty uses to support its claims, it requires less effort to empty your bowels when you’re squatting compared to sitting.
The studies above also support this claim.
Still, Farhadi says this claim applies to some, but not all.
The Squatty Potty is “a useful tool in a particular group of patients,” he says. “Patients with infrequent bowel movements probably wouldn’t benefit, unless they’re also straining.”
If you’re straining, the Squatty Potty might help, but if you’re having problems with regularity, don’t expect it to solve your problems.
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Is it true? Emerging evidence points to yes, though it’s not the consensus yet. Farhadi says that although there are only a few high quality studies to back the Squatty Potty claims, it makes sense that squatting reduces strain based on how our bodies are designed.
“There’s no question that, physiologically, this should work, but the question is, does everyone need it?” he says.