We all do it but, for the majority of us, poop isn't usually a topic of conversation. In fact, unless you are a parent of small children, it probably never comes up at all. Although generally considered distasteful and not a great dinner party conversation topic, poop is still beyond interesting. Here are 9 fascinating things you may not have known:
1. Poop is mostly water
They may look solid (most of the time) but your stool is made up of 75% water. About a third of the solid matter is comprised of dead bacteria, another third of indigestible food and the rest is cholesterol and fats, protein and inorganic substances like iron phosphate.
2. Poop is like Christmas
It may be brown in colour, but poop is made up from something red and green. The brown comes from a chemical that is released when our red blood cells are broken down by the body. The chemical travels to the gut via bile, which is the green substance produced by the liver. During digestion, bile mixes with what we have eaten and changes from green to brown as it travels down the colon.
3. Poop can be like a rainbow
The colour of your stool can change depending on what you have eaten. It can be green, pale yellow, grey, black, or maroon. Green poop can indicate a quick transit, meaning the bile didn't have time to change colour. Pale brown or yellow may indicate that you are not producing enough bile salts while a persistent greyish or pale yellow stool could indicate problems with organs like the liver.
4. If you see red, it's a red flag
One of the most important things our poop can do is alert us of possible bowel tumors. Bowel tumors have a tendency to bleed, so you should always consult your doctor if you notice blood in your stool, on the paper after you wipe or in the bottom of the bowl.
5. But not all red flags mean bowel cancer
Hemorrhoids anal fissures, bowel polyps, peptic ulcers and many other digestive issues can cause blood to appear on your toilet paper or in the bowl. Similarly, black, dark red or maroon poop may happen because you are taking iron tablets, or eating certain foods like blueberries. It could be more than one thing. It is always best to check with your physician.
6. It's a jungle in there
First published in 1997, the Bristol Stool Scale, uses words like 'snake' and 'fluffy' to classify human stool into 1 of 7 categories used to judge transit time. Transit time being the amount of time it takes for food to pass through the digestive tract. It is hard to imagine 'fluffy' being used to describe bowel movements, but it is.
7. You don't have to go everyday
Bowel behaviours vary from person to person. They can even vary for individuals from day to day. You may have heard that it is important to go everyday, but that isn't necessarily true. A 2010 Scandinavian study puts the normal range anywhere from three times a day to three times a week.
8. Laxatives can be your friend -- but not your bestie
Constipation can happen and laxatives can be a useful way to get things moving again. But overusing them can be dangerous. For one, your body can develop a dependence on them and fail to function without their help. Secondly, overusing laxatives can also lead to a change in electrolytes and the acidity or alkalinity of body fluids. This can become a life threatening problem that impacts the kidneys and the cardiovascular system.
9. Having a poop (or passing wind) is a masterpiece of finely controlled bodily engineering
When poop exits your body, it does so through the anus, which is controlled by the anal sphincter. The cells that line the anus are incredibly sensitive and know the difference between poop and gas in the rectum. This allows you to pass gas without also passing stool. When you stop and think about it, that sphincter is pretty impressive. Talk about muscle control!
Do these facts come as news to you?
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