11 ICKY BUT INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT POOPCategory:
Poop happens — to everyone. Although it's natural to flush and hit the sink without a second glance, taking a peek at what's in the toilet bowl can benefit your health. And chances are, there's a lot you never knew, or thought to ask, about your number two. What Is Poop? Here’s What’s Healthy, and What’s Not
Let’s talk about poop. Sure, it’s not exactly dinner-party fodder, but it’s important to learn all you can about bowel movements — what’s weird, what’s normal, what’s healthy, what’s not. That’s because your poop (stool) is an important clue to your overall digestion and health: Your poop can reveal serious signs of infections, digestive problems, and even early signs of cancer, according to the gastroenterologist Anish Sheth, MD, the coauthor of the books What’s Your Poo Telling You? and What’s My Pee Telling Me?
First, even though we often take poop for granted most days, sometimes your poop (stool) is not normal at all. Here are some poop concerns many people have:
Diarrhea happens when stool passes through the large intestine too quickly.
Constipation occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly.
Bowel Incontinence is a problem controlling your bowel movements.
Other abnormalities with poop may be signs of a digestive problem.
Most people have experienced diarrhea, whether from a GI virus, an allergic reaction to food in the diet or even as a result of stress or anxiety. Diarrhea is loose, watery poop. You have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day. Acute diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts a short time. This poop problem is common and usually lasts about one or two days, but it may last longer. Then it goes away on its own. Diarrhea lasting more than a few days may be a sign of a more serious problem.
People who are constipated may experience any one or more of the following poop symptoms:
Difficulty passing stools
Feeling of incomplete emptying after defecation
Hard poop (stool)
Painful bowel movements
Reduced poop (stool) frequency
Straining with a bowel movement
The process of pooping is learned early in childhood and retains spontaneity throughout life in most people. However, some people may lose the spontaneity of pooping for a variety of reasons such as childbirth trauma, surgery, medications that slow bowel transit, or other reasons. Some health conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson's disease can weaken the nerves in the colon and result in severe constipation.
Normal poop (stools) are soft and formed (not hard or lumpy). They pass without urgency or straining. A sudden change from a person's normal bowel pattern should be reported to a doctor.
So, brush up on this poop (stool) trivia, and then pay attention to how often you go, how long it takes, and what the end result looks and, yes, smells like. Simply put, know your poop.
Poop: What's Really in It
Water makes up about 75 percent of your stool. The rest is an often-stinky combination of fiber, dead and live bacteria, other cells, and mucus. Soluble fiber found in foods like beans and nuts is broken down during digestion and forms a gel-like substance that becomes part of your poop.
On the other hand, foods packed with insoluble fiber, such as corn, oat bran, and carrots, are more difficult for your body to digest, which explains why they may emerge in your poop (stool) looking relatively unchanged.
Color Matters When It Comes to Poop (Stool)
As you may have seen in pictures of poop, the color can vary — a lot — depending on what kinds of food you’ve ingested and other factors. Dr. Sheth has seen patients get full work-ups for bright red stool that turned out to be nothing more than the passing of beets. Leafy vegetables can cause green stool, while certain medications can make your poop look white or clay-colored. Look out for jet-black stool. Though it could be from something as harmless as iron supplements or black licorice, the color could be a sign of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Pictures of Poop Show That Shape Matters Too
Another advocate at looking at your poop before you flush is Mehmet Oz, MD, the host of The Dr. Oz Show, who explained during a now-famous appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show that the perfect poop is log-like and S-shaped, not broken up into pieces. Part of getting that log-style shape, compared with poop that comes out more pebbly-looking, comes from eating fiber, which lends bulk to stool and acts as a glue to keep the poop stuck together as it exits your body. Pencil-thin poops, on the other hand, can be a sign of rectal cancer, which narrows the opening through which stool passes, according to Sheth.
Terrible-Smelling Stool May Be a Sign of Infection
It’s no news that poop never smells pleasant, but particularly pungent stool is often a sign of infection, according to Sheth. Terrible-smelling poops are a signature side effect of one stomach bug caused by the parasite giardia, ingested most often by swimming in fresh water lakes. It could also suggest a more serious digestive condition such as ulcerative colitis, Chron’s disease, or celiac disease.
Just How Often Should You Poop?
Do you hit the bathroom at the same exact time every morning, or can you go days before you need to poop? It’s all normal, says Sheth — the important thing is that you’re consistent for your own routine. A big decrease in poop (stool) could be due to a diet change (fiber intake), which is why many people find they’re less regular on weekends or vacation — they may be eating less fiber or working out less often, both of which promote healthy digestion. Other factors affecting poop output — either a decrease or an increase — are gastrointestinal disorders, an overactive thyroid, or colon cancer.
Cultural differences play a role too. Sheth notes in his book that South Asians unload nearly three times as much stool as British people do, a difference he explains is largely due to the higher fiber content in the average Indian diet.
According to Sheth, on his website DrStool.com, the average American man excretes 150 grams (about one-third of a pound) of poop every day, or the equivalent of five tons in a lifetime!
Diarrhea Is Your Poop (Stool) on Speed
Digestion can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, during which time the food you’ve eaten travels down your esophagus to your stomach, then to your small intestine, your large intestine, and out through the anus.
Diarrhea is the result of your poop passing too quickly through the large intestine, where most of the water content is absorbed. (Constipation, on the other hand, is when it takes too long for stool to pass through.) Loose stools can be due to many factors, including stomach viruses and food-borne illness. They can also result from food allergies or intolerances, like lactose intolerance, or from other digestive issues.
Healthy Poop (Stool) Should Sink in the Toilet
Listen for the sound of your poop (stool) as it hits the water in the toilet. Floating stools are often an indication of high-fat content, which can be a sign of malabsorption, a condition in which you can't absorb enough fat and other nutrients from the food you’re ingesting. When your poop (stool) floats, it is associated with celiac disease or chronic pancreatitis.
It's Normal to Pass Gas 10 to 18 Times a Day
Incidents of flatulence are embarrassing, at least for some, but this result of harmless bacteria breaking down food in the large intestine is completely healthy. Your colon is filled with bacteria that release gas as a by-product of digesting the food you eat. Your body absorbs some of it into the bloodstream, which you breathe out through your lungs, and expels the rest out of your other end. It’s normal to pass gas anywhere from 10 to 18 times a day, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
Poop (Stool) Transplants Are Proven to Work
Fecal Microbiota transplants are real — and they work. A study just released at the American College of Gastroenterology’s annual meeting found that such transplants — in which stool from a healthy person is placed in the colon of an infected person — helped treat bouts of recurrent diarrhea associated with a C. difficile bacterial infection. Such transplants have also effectively treated inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The trillions of good bacteria in a healthy person’s poop can help recolonize the digestive tract and treat infections that haven’t responded well to other treatment, including antibiotics and probiotics, Sheth says.
So how do you ask someone to be your poop donor? And more importantly — who? Sheth suggests asking someone whose healthy gut bacteria likely differs from yours; ideally, a friend or family member who lives in a different household.
Reading on the Toilet Isn't So Healthy
Studies suggest that the more time you spend in the bathroom, specifically reading, the more likely you are to develop hemorrhoids, or swollen blood vessels in and around the anus. It sounds like a strange correlation, but think about it: The longer you stay in the bathroom trying to poop, the more pressure and stress you put down there. Sitting for too long on the toilet can also restrict blood flow around the anal area, which can make hemorrhoids worse.
Most of the time, a diet devoid of fiber, which keeps your bowels regular and prevents constipation and hard poop (stool), is to blame. Most Americans eat 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day; doctors recommend 30 to 35 grams to prevent hemorrhoids, according to researchers from Los Angeles Medical Center.
Is Your Cell Phone Covered With Poop (Stool)?
Wash your hands well after using the bathroom, or poop may travel with you. In a study released in 2011, British researchers discovered that one in six cell phones may be contaminated with poop (stool) that can spread E. coli bacteria, after they collected nearly 400 samples in 12 different cities.
Since phones tend to travel with everywhere — especially places where we eat, like kitchen counters, restaurant tables, and desks, to name a few — the E.coli bacteria detected on them may play a role in spreading illness.
Poop happens — to everyone. Although it's natural to flush and hit the sink without a second glance, taking a peek at what's in the toilet bowl can benefit your health. And chances are, there's a lot you never knew, or thought to ask, about your number two.