When I was much, much younger, one of my most memorable things to do was to visit my grandparents from my mom’s side. They lived in a small village in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, on a land that was given by the government. They were not rich in money, but oh so rich in love. And it was in this lovely home where I first discovered the squatty toilet.
Unlike many whose association of squat toilets are mostly of the sights and smells they’ve experienced in both public and private Chinese lavatories, mine was in a clean bathroom that always stayed clean, where the flush lever was very high and very far from the squatty toilet and where water didn’t bounce back so forcefully that your poop is caught in its tidal wave. It wasn’t until later on, when a school friend talked about her “China Experience” of yucky squat toilets and public bathrooms (which to be fair are sometimes gross in my other home country, the Philippines, as well) that I realized that squat toilets were considered ewww…
But take away the negative publicity the Chinese squat toilet is constantly marred with and—for now—instead of calling it the Squatty Toilet, let’s call it by its other name, the “Natural Position Toilet”. There’s a reason why it’s still being used all over the world, and today, its positive attributes are slowly being recognized.
Before the advent of the indoor plumbing in the 1800s, we all defecated by squatting. It was simply the most logical way—until the inventor Sir John Harington made a toilet with a seat for Queen Elizabeth, that is. A new “throne” built for royalty. It was much later on when finally, the regular household could also have their very own “thrones” thanks to the expertise of Thomas Crapper.
In ancient China, however, that process of release was a great equalizer, and what differentiated royalty from commoners was their location of release. One could be silly and say it’s yet another West-versus-East triumph, but I’d like to believe that the East simply valued the health benefits of pooping by squatting too much.
How Long Do You Stay on the Toilet?
On the surface, being able to sit on your toilet may seem like the most comfortable thing. Unfortunately, your colon will disagree with you on this.
Here is an idea of what happens to your colon when you take too long sitting:
When you sit on porcelain, your colon gets kinked. Defecating then becomes a chore—and sometimes a challenge— for your colon, possibly causing problems in the long run. But by squatting over the Natural Position toilet, the colon is loosened and your excrement comes out more easily.
Did you know, for example, that sitting on the toilet for too long, too often raises the chance of getting hemorrhoids? This is especially true for pregnant women, carrying the weight of their unborn child in them. Live Science explains it this way:
Swollen hemorrhoids are usually a result of applying too much pressure to the lower rectum. This may happen if you’re straining to have a bowel movement, which can occur during chronic diarrhea and constipation, according to the Mayo Clinic. It may also happen if you sit on the toilet too long because when you sit on the toilet, your anus relaxes, allowing the veins around to fill with blood, which then puts pressure on those veins.
Squatting, therefore, helps improve digestion and bowel function.
Other Benefits of the Squat Toilet
There are quite a few skills you can get from mastering the Chinese squat toilet. Some basic ones include great balance (don’t fall in!), flexibility (stretch those muscles!), and speed (flush then run!).
Another upside of using the squat toilet is that it’s supposed to be more hygienic—assuming at public toilets you can wash your hands, anyway. The idea is that with squat toilets, you don’t have to touch any toilet seats. After all, you don’t know what’s been there—and I’m not just referring to fingerprints.
There are also commercial benefits to guiding your child to master this squatty feat.
One is that you might see it again in your next expat destination. Contrary to popular belief, this sanitation fixture isn’t just limited to our beloved China, nor Asia for that matter. Western countries such as Morocco, Italy, and even France, have squat toilets as well. An acquaintance had even mentioned that the first time she saw a squat toilet was in a French bar!
Another is because, elsewhere, people are paying to get this healthier alternative.
One of the sources I’ve shared above is from an American company called Squatty Potty, that was also featured on Shark Tank, a TV program where entrepreneurs present their ideas or products to the “shark” investors slash hosts. Not only did it do well on the show and gain itself investors, this product has also been featured by companies like Men’s Health, The Huffington Post, the Washington Post America’s National Public Radio and it’s even been on The Doctors’ talk show!
Here’s how it fared on Shark Tank (via Youtube, VPN required):
Also, your children might encounter it again one day as the “toilet of the future”. Except this time, it’d be called the “Wellbeing Toilet”. Of course, it’ll have other features such as built-in screening systems to check waste matter for bio-markers or pregnancy, and more.
In the end, the health benefits outweigh the inconvenience the Squat Toilet may seem to bring.