11 Icky but Interesting Facts About Poop
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 common health conditions such as diabetes can weaken the nerves in the colon and result in severe constipation.
Normal poop (stools) are soft and formed (not hard or lumpy). They are passed 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.