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Uploaded:2016-08-02
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Everybody poops ... but is it possible that you're pooping all wrong? Learn the science behind the greatest debate of our time: squat vs. sit!

Thanks to Patreon Patron Maia for asking this important question!

Hosted by: Michael Aranda
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Sources:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-leaf/how-to-poop-properly-a-to_b_7849202.html
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1024180319005
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1757-5672.2009.00057.x/abstract
http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/video/poop-pose
http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/09/20/161501413/for-best-toilet-health-squat-or-sit
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2010/08/dont_just_sit_there.single.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-checkup/post/is-that-right-squatting-on-potty-better-than-sitting/2012/10/18/04cd0610-196b-11e2-ad4a-e5a958b60a1e_blog.html
Okay internet, you asked, so now we're answering. Pooping: its a thing people do all the time, normally somewhere between three times a day and once every three days. And you may have heard that you've been doing it wrong. You're supposed to squat, not sit; or so they say. It's probably true that squatting can make bowel movements a little easier. But, despite what some people might say, changing your position won't solve all of your digestive problems.

Humans spent thousands of years squatting to defecate. It's only in the last few hundred years that people in Western countries have adopted the raised toilet and started sitting instead. So this whole poop position controversy is based on the idea that squatting must arrange your anatomy in a helpful way because that's what our bodies evolved to do.

On its way out of you, solid waste has to pass through your rectum, and then your anal canal. There's a muscle, called the puborectalis muscle, that loops around your digestive tract between those two sections, and it helps keep poop inside you when you aren't trying to eliminate it. Basically, it makes an angle between your rectum and anal canal, which puts upward pressure on your rectum and holds everything in. And when the muscle relaxes, your rectum and anal canal straighten out a bit, which - along with other muscles that relax and contract - lets stuff... slide out. 

It's probably not surprising that there hasn't been too much research on the anatomy involved in pooping. But a few small studies say that squatting helps align your rectum and anal canal better than sitting does. A couple others have shown that when people squat instead of sit, they have to strain less and the elimination process takes less time. Again, these studies were small. One used 28 volunteers, and another used only 6. So it's enough to suggest that there might be something to these ideas, but bigger, more carefully controlled studies need to be done before this can be considered a scientific fact. 

But! - no pun intended - if squatting does make things easier, it's possible that it also helps with hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins near the anus and rectum, which can be painful and lead to itching and bleeding. They're often caused by too much straining when you poop. So if squatting does help with straining, it could make hemorrhoids less likely - but that's basically all we know about the potential benefits.

There are companies out there that sell stools to help you pass your... stool, and they sometimes they make really exaggerated claims - for example, squatting will fix irritable bowel syndrome or even prevent colorectal cancer. There's just no evidence to support those claims. Gastrointestinal experts seem to agree that if your bowel movements are normal, there's no real reason to squat when you go. There's probably no harm in it, either, but if you're happy with the way you've been pooping until now, there's no need to change up your methods. But, you know, thanks for asking. 

And thanks especially to all of our patrons on Patreon who keep these answers coming. If you'd like to submit questions to be answered, or get some videos a few days early, go to patreon.com/scishow. And don't forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe! 

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