Experts Agree: Squat Toilets Are Good For You

squat toilets
Sean McLachlan

Chances are your morning glory isn’t good for you.

In the Western world we’re second place when it comes to doing Number Two. A growing number of medical experts agree that our seat toilets aren’t nearly as good as squat toilets, which are what’s used on the majority of places in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

It all comes down to positioning.

The medical textbook Gastroenterology, the definitive reference to the subject and written by three MDs, states, “The ideal posture for defecation is the squatting position, with the thighs flexed upon the abdomen. In this way the capacity of the abdominal cavity is greatly diminished and intra-abdominal pressure increased, thus encouraging expulsion …”

In plain English, squatting releases pressure on your rectum and makes it easier to poop. Sitting in a Western style toilet is means you’re pushing against your own muscles. Many doctors say that using squat toilets reduce the chances of constipation, hemorrhoids, even bowel cancer.
Neuroscientist Daniel Lametti writes that wile there haven’t been any smoking gun statistics for cancer, it makes intuitive sense that people would be less constipated if they squat and less likely to put strain on their anus that would cause hemorrhoids.

Having spent a great deal of time in countries where squat toilets were the only option, I can testify that squatting is easier on the bum, if not the thighs. You get through your business quicker, and it does feel easier and more natural. It’s how we’re built, after all. Interested in learning more? Check out this article on how to use squat toilets.

Go Hiking: It’s Better For You Than You Thought

hiking, walkingNot feeling healthy? Go hiking. Two new studies from the UK show that a hike, or even a good walk around the city streets, boosts mental and physical health.

A new survey by Ramblers, the British walking charity, found that a quarter of adults in Britain walk for an hour or less a week. And when they’re talking about walking, they don’t mean hitting the trails in the local nature reserve, they mean all types of walking, including walking to the shops, work or school. Presumably walking to the fridge to get another lager isn’t included. Of the more than 2,000 people surveyed, a staggering 43 percent said they walked for only two hours or less a week.

The Ramblers cites government health advisers who recommend that you get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. Walking counts in this, and is one of the easiest ways to get fit. Not only does it reduce the risk of several physical ailments like heart disease, it reduces weight and improves mental activity and emotional well being. It also saves money on gas and public transport.
The British Heart Foundation has more details on their webpage.

Another new study shows that being outside more is more beneficial than we generally think. While many people worry about the harmful effects of the sun, a new study by Edinburgh University has found that UV rays cause the body to produce nitric oxide, a compound that reduces blood pressure. Researchers suspect that the benefits of exposure to the sun may outweigh the risks.

[Photo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources]

How To Stay Healthy On Spring Break

mezcalWhether you’re a beach-bound college student or a middle-aged couple headed to the Rockies for some end-of-season snow, spring break presents the same health risks every year. Fortunately, they’re all easily preventable by using common sense and following a few basic rules.

This year, here’s hoping your only souvenirs are great photos and even better memories.

Hangover helpers
You could just watch your alcohol consumption, or try drinking a glass of water in between drinks, but I hear you laughing. Try to maintain, especially if you’re in a foreign country, traveling alone or at altitude. If I wake up with a hangover that not even a truckload of Tylenol can cure (it’s also not good for your liver when taken in combination with booze), I swear by coconut water, which is loaded with electrolytes. Don’t forget to consume regular water, as well, and get something in your stomach that’s full of complex carbs and protein, not grease (sorry).

Adjust for altitude
Regardless of your physical condition, altitude sickness can strike anyone. Give yourself a couple of days to acclimate, hydrate frequently and take ibuprofen, aspirin or even Diamox if you’re really feeling bad. Watch your alcohol consumption! One drink has the effect of two (see above if you ignore this advice).

Prevent food- or waterborne illness
Far be it from me to tell anyone to avoid street food, unless they have a compromised immune system, or are very old or young. You can safely enjoy street eats in foreign countries, as long as you know what to look for. If a stall or vendor doesn’t have a line, or their sanitation practices are poor, give it a miss; the same rule applies to restaurants (just because gringos flock there doesn’t mean it’s safe). As for water, I avoid ice cubes in rural areas and from street vendors, and always check bottled water in developing nations to make sure the seal isn’t broken. Don’t forget to travel with Imodium, because nothing is ever foolproof.

Save your skin
Yes, you need to wear sunscreen, even if it’s cloudy, rainy or snowing, and you need to reapply it thoroughly every two hours. Wear a minimum SPF 30 broad spectrum product. Ask your dermatologist for referrals; not all brands are created equal.

Be self-aware
Being drunk n’ sloppy is never attractive, but it can also be downright dangerous. Know your limit, stick with you friends if you’re not traveling solo, and if you (ahem) get separated, maintain phone contact, let them know where you are and who you’re with, and when they can expect you back. We’ve all had a spring fling, but safety should always come first.

[Photo credit: Flickr user dbrekke]@