Inventions

Really, Do We Know Squat?


Robert Edwards and the Squatty Potty stoolCourtesy Squatty PottyRobert Edwards and the Squatty Potty stoolOurs is the age of miracles and wonderment, of atavism chic. I just met a hedgie who recently bought a $20 million brownstone. He swears by a 900-calorie-a-day diet bookended by a handful of seeds and black, teeth-clenching coffee and what he says are all-nighters of ethereal sex. A thriving Arby’s franchise touts its healthier grass-fed beef; cows, after all, were meant to bend down and graze on the fat of the soil—gorge them with corn (and parts of other cows), and their choice cuts will marble up your arteries. The unkempt, fight-the-power crotch is back, according to a piece of trenchant reporting by Kat Stoeffel that will clean up at the National Magazine Awards.

So it’s only alimentary, my dear Watson, that this spirit would waft its way into your bathroom. That’s where the Squatty Potty, a bench that lifts your knees to fully liberate your colon, per humans’ (and apes’) age-old natural 35-degree squatting position, is taking the Christmas-shopping country by storm. The undertoilet contraption was plugged—effusively—by the scatalogically inclined Howard Stern and the gossip site and TV show TMZ. Its ads, as well as video testimonials from liberated customers, are all over YouTube (GOOG), while Dr. Oz and The Doctors have endorsed it. Stern sidekick Robin Quivers used it in recovery from cancer surgery.

In recent weeks, online searches for the Squatty Potty are up 8,100 percent, with men looking it up 67 percent of the time in major Howard Stern markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. The bench, which is also available in sleek bamboo, ships with self-congratulatory pins, capsules of colon-accelerant Good Move, and travel-size spritzers of Turdle Loo, an odor blocker that would have crushed it in the latter seasons of Sex and the City.

Bobby Edwards of Utah came up with the Squatty Potty in 2010, when his mother was in the throes of colon and pelvic floor difficulty and her doctors urged her to elevate her feet while on the toilet. Anyone who’s traveled across Asia is familiar with the hole-in-the-ground motif, in sharp contrast with the 90-degree sitting position that dominates the West. That style, says experts, tends to pinch the colon, a channel that, fully accordioned out, is as tall as Mary Lou Retton. Israeli and Japanese doctors have scored academic research money to study better elimination by squatting.

“Squatty makes a lot of sense,” says Dr. Gil Weitzman, a Manhattan gastroenterologist who specializes in helping patients find better means of intestinal egress, often with the help of a small bench. “Many patients who suffer from chronic constipation, bloating, or irritable bowel syndrome may find that changing the angle of the anorectum helps with evacuation and relieves their symptoms. Our digestive systems are evolutionarily developed to prefer a squatting position rather than sitting on toilets,” he says. “This may be one of the reasons that some digestive diseases are not found in those societies that are undeveloped and continue to squat more than sit.”

So now you know. A note from your humble narrator: This is a one-time, one-off topical diversion, so, please, no need to ship me GI bric-a-brac.

Merry Christmas. Go easy on the Hickory Farms.

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Farzad is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor. Follow him on Twitter @robenfarzad.

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