The straight poop

A law professor’s theory about relieving constipation is put to the test.

Some 20 years ago, Ian Ayres ’81, ’86JD, discovered a better way to poop. Recently, he decided to share it with the world. So the Yale law professor and an alumnus, Ryan Abbott ’11JD, collaborated on a constipation study. We’re relieved to report that it came out all right.

How did two law professors undertake a randomized, controlled medical trial and publish it in a scientific journal? It helps that one (Abbott, who teaches at Southwestern Law School) is also a physician and visiting assistant professor of medicine at the University of California–Los Angeles, where he conducted the study. It also helps that Ayres is, in his words, “committed to turning my annoyances into publications.”

“When I was in my early 30s, I suffered repeatedly from hemorrhoids,” Ayres says by e-mail. But he found it eased his constipation to press on his perineum, the small area between the rectum and the genitals. “For years, I was embarrassed to talk about this,” he says. “But one of the gifts of age is not worrying so much.”

A hundred subjects took part in the study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. (Some were recruited in the laxatives aisle at CVS.) Fifty received three to five minutes of instruction in Ayres’s simple technique and were asked to try it at home. The results: after four weeks, 72 percent of those asked to use the technique said it helped them “break up, soften, or pass [their] stools,” the study reports. More than half said it helped with hemorrhoids, and 82 percent said they would keep using it.

Abbott, who has done graduate work on traditional Chinese medicine, notes that it uses the same technique.


  • Preston Manning, MD (YMS '56)
    Preston Manning, MD (YMS '56), 8:44pm January 27 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    You are holding back. What is the treatment that is so effective?

  • Mark Branch
    Mark Branch, 11:45am January 28 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    The treatment is perineal pressure, as described in the third paragraph. More at

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