Thursday, May 28, 2015
Wise squat: Indian style may be best
Wise squat: Indian style may be best
Sharmila Ganesan, TNN | May 25, 2015, 06.40AM IST
While Indian doctors hesitate to blame Western toilets for severe bowel conditions citing the lack of "conclusive evidence", they do cite straining as a cause for constipation.
Is the desi posture the best way to deal with loo trouble?
Yes, say squat evangelists who are tweaking the western pot to help urban Indians with creaky knees.
One of the funniest scenes in the film Piku is when Irrfan draws a diagram of the lower intestine with three sausage-shaped loops at its end. It's his attempt to sell the benefits of squatting over sitting to a perpetually constipated Amitabh Bachchan. But squat evangelism, it turns out, can produce more than a laugh. Currently, it's earning German microbiologist Giulia Enders the status of best-selling author.
In her book, Charming Bowels, which has not only topped the German paperback charts but also sold over a million copies, Enders argues that sitting actually prolongs the evacuation process. "Over 1.2 billion people who squat have almost no incidence of diverticulitis and fewer problems with piles, "she ex plained in a recent interview to The Guardian. "We in the West, on the other hand, squeeze our gut tissue until it comes out of our bot toms." Of course, given the rampant rise of the flush toilet, several urban Indians are guilty of this too.
While Indian doctors hesitate to blame Western toilets for severe bowel conditions citing the lack of "conclusive evidence", they do cite straining as a cause for constipation. That is why a few suffering Indians are fur tively turning from readers into frogs in the loo. While some victims are converting their Western johns into Indian toilets, many are simply sliding plastic stools under the com mode to mimic the squat posture. In fact, this trend is even spawning wooden inventions such as squat stools that frame the pot.
Some dismiss squat evangelism as a fad. "Squatting is not recommended for people above a certain age," says Salil Sadanandan, director, kitchen & bath, South Asia and SubSaharan Africa, at Kohler. Many elderly Indians, including his own parents, he says, now prefer the Western toilet. Mumbai's Mohammed Hashim Shaikh, owner of Porta cabin, which has been selling mobile toilets since 2010, says, "Except for the labour class, everyone wants European toilets."
But for those like nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar who recommend a return to traditional foods and habits, the "Asian pot" is the best. In her book, `Don't Lose your mind, Lose your k, `Don't Lose your mind, Lose your Weight,' she says the seated posture causes constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. "On one hand, we want everything ayurvedic, herbal, natural and on the other hand we use the most unnatural posture for defecation," says Diwekar in the book.
But you don't have to break the sink yet. Resting your feet on a little stool while doing your business should do, doctors say . "When you use a stool, your thighs and chest form an acute angle, as is the case in squatting," says gastroenterologist Dr Rajesh Sainani, who runs the Pelvic Floor Clinic at Jaslok Hospital.
While a regular plastic stool costs just Rs 100, there are other expensive ways to achieve the critical acute angle, too. Supra Organics, owned by Ajeet Gautam, has introduced Squatty Potty, a low, wooden stool that costs Rs 1,995. So far, Gautam has sold around 150 such stools mostly to men over 40, whose reasons for ordering the item range from doctors' prescription to haemorrhoids.
But does a footstool work as well as the squat? No, says Jonathan Isbit, an American who started squatting in 1970 at the age of 20, inspired by yoga. "Most companies marketing these devices are promoting the false idea that sitting with your feet elevated is squatting, " says Isbit. His argument is that most people who have never squatted have lost flexibility in their Achilles tendons. Which is why back in 2001, the Yale dropout designed Nature's Platform, a table elevated at a five-degree angle that allows the user to squat two inches above the toilet seat.
Over the past 14 years, Isbit has sold about 5,000 stools to clients in about 30 countries, including India, Pakistan, Hong Kong and "all the countries in Europe". At roughly Rs 10,000 per piece, these platforms aren't exactly cheap. Now, a "semi-retired" Isbit has started giving instructions on how to make a DIY squatting adapter.