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10 Things You Never Knew About Poop

How poo-smart are you? Read on to get the scoop on poop — and understand what your stool might be saying about your health.

Poo — we all do it. Though it’s not exactly dinner conversation, it’s a good idea to know what’s normal and what’s not. After all, your bowel movements say a lot about your overall health, including whether you have an infection or you’re absorbing the nutrients you eat. Read on to boost your number two IQ with these ten fecal facts.

1. Poop Should Sink

There’s nothing quite like the plop of a poop as it hits the water. But if your stool bobs up and down in the bowl instead of sinking, it could be a sign of absorption problems, including digestive disorders such as chronic pancreatitis or celiac disease. Stools that float do so because they’re high in fat content, which can mean that fat — and possibly other nutrients — aren’t getting absorbed properly. Though it’s usually nothing to worry about, you might want to keep an eye out for consistent floaters.

2. It’s Easier (and More Satisfying) to Poop Squatting Than It Is to Poop Sitting

The modern, sit-down “throne” you park yourself on each morning is actually ill-suited to defecation. Believe it or not, it’s simply not natural to defecate sitting down. According to this study, pooping in the squatting position can significantly reduce both straining and the time required for a “satisfying” bowel movement.

Whether you poo sitting down or squatting is largely cultural. Squat toilets are still common in Asian countries, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East.

3. Fecal Matter Is Brown Because of Bile

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to make the color brown. Even kindergarteners with finger paints get it — just mix every single color together. But in fact, our feces aren’t brown because all of the different-colored foods we ate mixed together. Instead, they’re brown because of a little something called bile. Bile is green when it’s released by the gallbladder, but it becomes brown as it moves through your intestinal tract until it’s released along with a by-product called stercobilin, which is also brown.

Gray, red, green, white, black, or yellow stools may be an indicator that something’s off.

4. Got Diarrhea? Get a Stool Transplant

Diarrhea can be caused by a number of health conditions, including bacterial infections and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Most of the time, it clears up on its own. But when it doesn’t?

“Fecal microbiota transplants” are a real treatment proposed by the American College of Gastroenterology. If you’re struggling to imagine what one might entail, you should know it’s as gross as you think it is. Stool transplants involve placing a healthy person’s poop in the colon of an infected person so that good bacteria can recolonize the digestive tract.

5. Your Poop Is 75 Percent Water

The rest is a foul-smelling mix of dead bacteria, indigestible food matter, cholesterol and fats, inorganic matter, and protein. The gelatinous substance that helps feces stick together is formed by soluble fibers from foods like nuts, lentils, beans, and some fruits and vegetables.

As you’ve probably noticed, some foods are harder for your body to break down through digestion. Corn and carrots are notable examples, which is why you may sometimes see them in the toilet bowl looking like they did when you ingested them.

6. The Smell of Books May Trigger a Bowel Movement

The ‘Mariko Aoki’ phenomenon claims that bookstores trigger an urge to defecate. Named after the Japanese woman who first wrote about this tendency, it’s thought to be common — at least, on Twitter. Possible explanations include the laxative effects of the scent of ink or paper, the association between books and bathrooms that develops when we read on the toilet, and the conduciveness of the book-browsing stance to bowel movements.

7. Excrement Can Do Amazing Things

Poop needn’t be flushed down the toilet and lost forever. Instead, it can be used to power vehicles, like this feces-fuelled bus which hit the streets of the UK in 2014. Why not use poop for drinking water, too? Bill Gates recently blogged about his efforts to support a machine that turns poop into pootable—oops, potable—water. And this Indian company uses elephant dung to make stationary. Looks like fecal matter is about to save the world!

8. Someone Left Four Bags of Human Excrement on the Moon. (Ahem, Neil Armstrong ...)

What do astronauts do when they have to go on the job? Well, gravity plays a big part in defecation — something early missions to space overlooked. In spite of “low-residue diets,” which were designed to decrease bowel movements, astronauts used defecation devices or bags with a 1.5-inch opening at the end. Attached to the bag was a disinfecting wipe and neutralize odors. Filled bags were stored on board for the duration of the mission.

Waste management was a notorious problem on the Apollo mission, but the moon landing apparently provided an opportunity to leave behind a few “doggie bags.”

9. The Fact That We Think Poop Stinks Is an Evolutionary Mechanism

Is poop really that gross? Or are we just biased? Actually, our aversion to the sight and smell of our own fecal matter is an evolutionary mechanism that developed to protect us from getting sick. Feces can carry viruses such as hepatitis A and E, as well as harmful, disease-causing bacteria. The more grossed-out we are by feces, the more likely we are to maintain a safe distance — and therefore protect ourselves from contracting a disease.

10. The Shape and Consistency of Your Poop Is Trying to Tell You Something

Do you look before you flush? If you don’t, you could be missing out on important information about your health. In addition to color, the shape and consistency of your stool can point to illnesses. ‘Normal’ stool should be log-shaped and rounded like a letter S. Broken-up stools can indicate a lack of fiber in your diet. Stools that are too thin may be an indicator of rectal cancer.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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