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Pooping regularly is part of keeping your digestive system healthy. But when nature calls, it’s doesn’t always come so naturally. While it’s not abnormal to have discomfort during a bowel movement on occasion, pooping should not be a source of constant pain.

Some people swear there’s an ideal position that will reduce the pain and friction felt when having a bowel movement, but others have pooh-poohed this idea. Can changing the position really make the process smoother?

Squatting, as opposed to sitting, may be a game-changer when it comes to emptying your bowels. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used positions for pooping.

There are three primary positions that humans can use to poop. In medical literature, they’re referred to as defecation postures:

  • sitting
  • sitting with hips flexed
  • squatting

To envision the way your body empties your bowels, picture a flexible pipe as the exit canal from your body. This pipe is your rectal canal.

If the pipe is at all compressed or bent, it can’t completely empty the chamber above it. When the pipe is straight, it forms a direct route that’s the most efficient way out of your body.

Hip flexion, the degree to which your legs are elevated or tilted during a bowel movement, can also help your rectal canal reach its potential as an evacuation route.

Sitting

Sitting is the typical defecation posture for most people in the Western hemisphere who use a traditionally shaped pedestal-type toilet bowl. The pedestal toilet came into prevalence in the 19th century when indoor plumbing became more mainstream.

Some researchers who study the digestive system trace health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation to this type of toileting position. They point out that the natural human impulse is to squat while emptying the bowels, and that the sitting position doesn’t allow for your rectal muscles to relax in a straight line.

Sitting with hips flexed

Sitting on a toilet with your hips flexed away from your body at a 60-degree angle may help your rectal muscles into a more neutral position, reducing the straining it takes to get your poop out.

There are currently no studies to indicate that sitting with hips flexed is better than squatting to use the toilet, though some research suggests it may be better than just sitting.

Squatting

Squatting, or sitting with your knees raised and your legs slightly spread, may indeed be the most natural and most effective way to empty your bowels.

A 2019 study with a small sample size showed that a toilet modification device that elevated the hip flexors into a squatting position resulted in less straining and more complete bowel movements. Study participants also spent more time pooping when they used this type of device.

Certain products can lift, elevate, and angle your legs when you use the toilet. This category of products, called potty stools, can put the body in an ideal position for pooping.

Potty stools are simple to use and relatively affordable. Purchase a potty stool online.

Besides changing the position that you use to poop, there are other best practices you can use to make pooping a more pleasant and efficient part of your day.

  • Eat plenty of fiber. The recommended amount of fiber is 25 to 38 grams per day. Consuming fiber can help stool pass through your bowels efficiently and out without straining.
  • Stay hydrated. The water content in your stool matters when it comes time to poop. Being dehydrated can cause hard, dark stools that lead to constipation.
  • Exercise. Your colon can be stimulated by regular exercise, which can help clear things out. Exercise may also stimulate blood flow to the abdominal area, triggering a bowel movement.
  • Try to defecate at the same time each day. When it comes to digestion, our bodies tend to operate on autopilot. Visit the bathroom each day around the same time and attempt a bowel movement to get on a regular schedule.
  • Don’t ignore the urge to go. When you feel the pressure that indicates it’s time to use the bathroom, don’t try to “hold it in.” Get in the habit of going as soon as you feel the need to.

Constipation is one of the most common digestive symptoms in the United States, with at least 2.5 million doctor visits related to constipation every year. Common signs of constipation include a feeling of fullness and irritability, combined with 2 or 3 days without a bowel movement.

Symptoms of constipation may include:

  • dark, lumpy stools that are hard to pass
  • feeling a blockage or like something is lodged in your rectum
  • straining during your bowel movements
  • having less than three bowel movements a week
  • excessive straining or pain during bowel movements

Typically, constipation is a symptom of something else, such as dehydration, fiber deficiency, stress, or another underlying health condition.

It’s not just marketing hype — pooping in a squatting position really is better for many people’s bodies. Not only does squatting provide a clearer exit for your bowel movements, but it also gives some of the job of emptying your bowels to gravity, thereby cutting down on the strain on your muscles as you poop.

If you have frequent constipation, it’s probably worth your while to try a new pooping position to see if it helps. If it feels uncomfortable at first, stick with it for at least a week before you decide if it makes a difference or not.

Occasional constipation is normal, but pain every time you go isn’t. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about ongoing constipation.