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Poop, also called feces or excrement, is a natural process. Everybody poops as a way to get rid of waste products and toxins that build up in the body. It also comes from the solid waste produced after eating food. The word has a long history and comes from the Middle English term Poupen that translates to ‘blow a horn’, or 'break wind' (fart).[1].

Poop Composition

Normal poop is mostly made of about 75% water and 25% solids. Solids include indigestible parts of food such as fiber, living and dead bacteria, fats, and other items. What you eat is part of your waste, but over 50%, not counting water, is from your own body[2]. Poop is actually full of living and dead organisms with 100 billion bacteria in a single gram and 100 million viruses[3]. This is one of the reasons animal manure is used as fertilizer to help plants grow. Even if you don't eat food, your body will still poop to get rid of things like dead cells and other body waste products.

While some of it is learned and cultural, most people think poop smells. However, there is a good reason. All the trillions of bacteria in your poop produce sulfur compounds that have a natural bad smell. Many scientists believe that we evolved to find this smell bad as a way of protecting ourselves from what could be dangerous bacteria that could harm our health. If your poop often smells very bad, it could be from eating certain foods, like things high in fat that are difficult to digest. Health problems can also cause bad smelling poo.

Pooping

Toilet in german theater munich

All living things must get rid of their poop. Otherwise, the toxins would build up and become poisonous. Most healthy people will poop anywhere from 3 times per day to only 3 times a week.[4]

A poor diet can make going to the bathroom difficult. Drinking plenty water and eating foods high in soluble fiber can help make it easier to poop. The fiber helps hold water which makes your poo softer. You can view soluble fiber as something that makes your poop more slippery and easier to move. Foods with lots of soluble fiber include fruits such as apples and pears with their skin, vegetables like carrots and broccoli, legumes (beans), and natural whole-grains such as breads and cereals. Prunes (dried plums) are an excellent source of soluble fiber. Eating a few dried prunes per day can make a huge difference for many people and they taste good too. Insoluble fiber (does not dissolve in water) is also important, but for a different reason. This type of fiber adds bulk to your poop so it can pass more easily. Whole wheat and vegetables are a good source of insoluble fiber.

Nutritionists say we should eat about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories we eat.[5] Kids ages 4-8 need around 25 grams of fiber each day. It is also very important to drink lots of water to keep things soft. If you can't get enough fiber from foods, fiber pills and supplements are another option. However, natural sources are always better.

Pooping Tips To Make Going To The Bathroom Easier

We all know how to poop, but there are some methods that can make your daily bathroom ritual easier.[6]

  • Keep relaxed. It is very important to stay as relaxed as possible. Straining will make going more difficult. Visualize a relaxing scene, such as a beach or open garden. You can also use deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques. Practice doing them both on and off the toilet. Visualize that everything is open and flowing. Never force or rush things and take your time to go slowly. Focus on slowly getting a small "crown" out and let gravity do the rest. Keep your butt spread wide and relaxed. If after a few tries you don't get any results, just leave the toilet and try again later in the day.
  • If it is comfortable for you, raising your knees higher can help position your colon in a way that promotes pooping. A small stool or even some books under your feet might be helpful. Some research suggests that people who lean forward, like that of "The Thinker," a famous statue by Rodin have an easier time passing their stools because if forms a straighter line in your colon [7]. Putting your elbows on your knees while leaning forward can also be helpful.
  • Drinking coffee or tea in moderation can help to stimulate your colon and pass poop better. However, too much can act as a diuretic which removes water making you more constipated.
  • Don't hold your breath. You should slowly inhale as you begin pushing out stools. Try breathing to the bottom part of your lungs. Keeping your mouth open can help prevent straining. Inhaling moves your diaphragm lower which will help making going to the bathroom easier.[8] Bulging your stomach out as you take a long breath in can help while you brace your stomach to prevent it from bulging too far forward. Don't tighten your tummy. Only do this for a maximum of 3 times. If it does not work you should get up, walk around, and try again later. A warm drink can help before you try again.[9]
  • Drink plenty of water in addition to eating lots of fiber. The water is what makes your poop softer. Just eating fiber without enough water can actually make constipation worse. Aim for eight 8 ounce glasses of water per day.[10]. Warm water or beverages can be very helpful because the heat makes your colon more relaxed and open.
  • Eat a diet rich in fiber with a focus on water soluble fiber. Great sources of soluble fiber are black beans, apples, and prunes. You will see fast results when these are included in your diet.
  • Get lots of daily exercise. Exercise helps to get your digestive track moving.
  • When practical, if you feel the urge to go, you should listen to your body and head for the toilet. Waiting too long can cause your poo to begin drying out, which will make it harder to go later.
  • Watch your stress levels. Stress can cause problems with your digestive system leading to constipation. Take time to relax each day.
  • Occasionally, laxative supplements may be needed if you just can't poop for many days. Your doctor might suggest drinking Metamucil, a suppository, or taking a stool softener pill to make it easier to go to the bathroom. However, you should not rely on them for long term use. It is best to deal with the problem naturally using the above suggestions.

What Your Poop Can Say About Your Health

Certain diseases can show up in your poop.[11] It is important to always follow-up with your doctor if you notice any of the following.

Color

The color of your poo comes from a chemical called stercobilin. Stercobilin is produced when your red blood cells break down, and from bile used during digestion.

Your poop color can indicate various health issues. See your doctor if you notice any of the following. Different shades of brown are normal poop colors. However, things to watch are black stools that could indicate internal bleeding in the stomach or upper intestines. Certain foods, like blueberries, iron supplements, or Pepto-Bismol medication can cause a similar color change. Bright red stools can mean blood coming from the lower part of your digestive systems, but might also be from eating beets. Pale white or yellow poop can also indicate problems such as hepatitis, parasite infections, pancreatic, or bile duct cancer. Green feces might mean you have an infection, but can also come from food. Blue poop is usually from eating blue food coloring.

Shape

Stools that are narrow and pencil-thin could be a symptom of colon cancer, or a sign that something is partially blocking your bowels. Stools that stick to the toilet sides can mean you have too much fat in your poop indicating that your body is having problems absorbing fats and may mean you have pancreatitis. Stools may float more if you have gas or are not getting proper nutrition.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is the opposite of constipation. Symptoms include loose, watery stools. It is normally a natural way your body gets rid of toxic substances because of things like food poisoning, or bacteria and viral infections. Diarrhea normally clears up on its own. However, diarrhea that lasts for 4 or more weeks may be a sign of certain diseases, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn's disease. Certain foods that people have troubles digesting can also cause diarrhea. It is very important to drink plenty fluids when you have it to prevent dehydration. Your doctor may also suggest a special diet, such as foods low in fiber that are gentle to digest.

Poop Transplants

Some diseases have been successfully treating by transplanting another person's poop into their own body. It is called a fecal transplant. It may sound very strange, but this can help introduce beneficial bacteria and cure certain digestive problems, like hard to treat infections.

References

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