Is There a Right Way to Empty Bowels?

03 January, 2019
Although talking about Number 2 is taboo in some cultures, it's important for out health to know the right way to do it. Learn more about it today.

The toilet: a “luxury” object

The toilet: a "luxury" object

Bathroom habits changed forever ever since Sir John Harington invented the toilet in 1591. At first, it was considered to be a “luxury” object. Not everyone has access to a toilet– only royalty. It was also accessible for the handicapped, but only in rare cases.

As plumbing developed, the toilet became mass produced, giving common people the same “privileges” that were once reserved for the wealthy. In addition, running water changed the former squatting bathroom customs and, as a consequence, the way we went number two changed as well.

Get to know: Why Is It Bad to Fight the Urge to Go to the Bathroom?

Scientific arguments: squatting is better

In his 1964 book Gastroenterology, Dr. Henry L. Bockus concluded that squatting with the thighs pressed against the abdomen was the necessary position for ideal defecation.

Similarly, Dr. Alexander Kira argued in his 1966 book The Bathroom that human nature calls for squatting to answer nature’s calls because it reduces the effort needed to defecate.

Furthermore, in 2003, Dr. Dov Sikirov published a study that compared the applied forces of sitting down and squatting during defecation. The findings found the intestine emptying sensation satisfactory for the squatting position. The sitting position required an excessive pushing effort and more time compared to the squatting position.

“The ideal position for defecation is squatting” -Henry L. Bockus. Doctor in Medicine

What happens when we empty bowels?

empty bowels

The term “defecation” can be defined as the process through which the final product of digestion is eliminated.

During this process, the enteric nervous system and the parasympathetic system allow several actions to take place. For example, such actions could be controlling the accumulation of fecal material in the colon or the relaxation of the external sphincter and puborectalis muscle. The latter allows for rectal alignment in order to create intra-abdominal pressure, thus ejecting the waste.

In the following link, you can read about: 4 Tips to Alleviate Irritable Bowel Syndrome


It’s important to point out that in order to go to the bathroom in a squatting positionyour legs need to be at a 35º angle in respect to your body. By doing so, your muscles press against your abdomen.

This action creates pressure in the interior cavities of the colon, liberating and aligning the anal channel, leading to elimination. This results in faster, easier and more thorough bowel evacuations.

Sitting down

Sitting down

When sitting, it’s the opposite case of squatting. In this position, your legs are at a 90º angle with the abdominal pressing against the thighs. This position doesn’t produce the proper alignment of the rectum and anus 

Furthermore, there is no pressure from the legs on the colon and abdomen. As a result, effort is needed in order to push down to empty the bowels.

This position leads to various complications such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, hernias and hemorrhoids. In serious cases, it can also lead to colon or intestinal cancer.

The benefits of adopting the squatting position when using the bathroom

This position:

  • Allows for quicker and easier elimination of feces.
  • Prevents material from passing through between the colon and small intestine. This reduces the possibilities of contaminating the small intestine.
  • Prevents tension in the area, which prevents hernias, diverticulosis, and other problems.
  • Forms part of a non-invasive treatment for hemorrhoids.
  • In the cases of pregnant women, this position prevents pressure on the uterus. In fact, it helps in preparations for natural birth.
  • Prevents fecal build-up. This condition is one of the main factors in appendicitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

It’s also important to mention that the 90° angle bathroom position has been associated with the chance of having colorectal cancer (CRC). However, that hypothesis was shown to still be inconclusive a study by Sahand Sohrabi.

How can I apply this information?

How can I apply this information?

In the world of bathroom furniture design, there aren’t many initiatives that consider the squatting position. However, we can adapt our toilet by using a footstool. It doesn’t need to be a specific height, but it does need to be tall enough so that we can position ourselves at a 35º angle.

Some people opt for stepping onto the toilet to get into position. However, doing so could be dangerous as the toilet could break or the person could fall. It’s definitely not advisable.

  • Fraca Padilla, M., Muñoz-Navas, M., & Rey Díaz-Rubio, E. (2013). DIAGNÓSTICO Y TRATAMIENTO DEL ESTREÑIMIENTO DURANTE EL EMBARAZO. Sociedad Española de Ginecología y Obstetricia.
  • Cerdán Miguel, J., Cerdán, C., & Jiménez, F. (2005). Anatomofisiología de la continencia y la defecación. Cirugia Espanola.
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  • Sir John Harington. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • Sikirov D. Comparison of straining during defecation in three positions: results and implications for human health. Dig Dis Sci. 2003;48(7):1201-1205. doi:10.1023/a:1024180319005.
  • Sakakibara R, Tsunoyama K, Hosoi H, et al. Influence of Body Position on Defecation in Humans. Low Urin Tract Symptoms. 2010;2(1):16-21. doi:10.1111/j.1757-5672.2009.00057.x.
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