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Because everyone does it. There once was a woman who walked regularly from her office in Midtown Manhattan to a hotel across the street in order to use the restroom, and that woman may have been one of us.


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What is fecal incontinence?

To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy. Poop is not just a laughing matter. The scientists and doctors who study feces have found that it's the byproduct of a diverse community of bacteria in your gut that impacts your health in all sorts of ways. Paying closer attention to your stool can tell you about the condition of these vital bacteria — and your overall health.

With that in mind, I spoke to Robynne Chutkana gastroenterologist at Georgetown Hospital and the author of Gutbliss and the forthcoming The Microbiome Solution : a pair of books about the gastrointestinal tract, the microbes that live in it, and the stool that comes out of it.

Lactobacillus johnsoniia beneficial species of gut bacteria. Kathryn Cross, IFR. It's tempting to think of feces as simply the used-up remains of the food you ate — the stuff that makes it through after digestion. In reality, this stuff is present, but 50 to 80 percent of your poop excluding water is actually bacteria that had been living in your intestines and was then ejected as food passed through.

Many of the bacteria in poop are still alive, but some are dead — carcasses of species that bloomed as they fed on the indigestible plant matter you consumed, then died shortly afterward. But it's not all bacteria. Your poop also includes some of this indigestible plant matter — like the cellulose in vegetables — with the exact proportions dependent on your diet. Your poop also contains small amounts of your own tissue: intestinal lining cells that were sloughed off during digestion. And, of course, there's water. Nina Helmer.

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Your feces' color is the result of a chemical called stercobilin. That chemical ends up in your poop in two ways: it is byproduct of the hemoglobin in broken-down red blood cells, and it also comes from bile, the fluid secreted into your intestines to help digest fat.

Chutkan says that in a person with an optimally-functioning digestive system, "the ideal stool is a deep chocolatey color — like melted chocolate. Without stercobilin present, poop would be a pale grey or whitish color. We know this because people who have liver disease or clogged bile ducts causing little or no bile to get to their intestines have light-colored feces, a condition known as acholic stool.

Other colors of poop can be a of other conditions.

Yellow stool can be the result of a parasitic infection, or pancreatic cancer. Black or dark red poop can be an indication of bleeding in the upper GI tract — or of eating beets. Green feces can also be the of an infection. If your poop is blue, it's probably just because of blue food coloring.

What causes fecal incontinence?

Hey Paul Studios. Because of anatomical differences, men and women's GI tracts work a little differently. These differences are so ificant, in fact, that Chutkan says she could perform a colonoscopy and correctly guess the patient's sex without knowing it beforehand. For starters, women have wider pelvises than men, as well as extra internal organs such as the uterus and ovaries in the region. As a result, their colons hang a bit lower than men's, and are a bit longer: on average, by ten centimeters.

Finally, men have more rigid abdominal walls that help push food through the GI tract more effectively. All this, Chutkan says, "makes the passage of stool much more challenging for women. Men, on the other hand, are generally much more regular. Although Chutkan cautions that there's no single "ideal poop," she notes that there are some characteristics that are a of a healthy digestive system and microbiome.

There are some doctors that say pooping three times a week is sufficient, but Chutkan says that you should probably make a bowel movement every day — assuming you're eating food every day. In some cases, irregularity can actually be caused by extreme stress, as hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can slow down the digestive process. Under ideal conditions, she says, "it should be very easy to pass — almost effortless. Finally, poop should sink, not float. Floating stool is usually a of poor nutrient absorption or excessive gas.

Of course, poops come in all shapes and sizes — as shown in the Bristol stool scalecreated by the University of Bristol's Ken Heaton, at right — but Chutkan says the ideal poop is a three or four on the scale. If your poop isn't a perfect, easy, continuous log, it's not necessarily a that you're sick.

Battle of the poops: men vs. women

But it may be a that you're not eating enough fiber, or that your gut microbiome isn't in great shape. The key to good poops, Chutkan says, is straightforward: "What really makes a good stool is large amounts of the indigestible plant matter that feed gut bacteria. But having a diverse and healthy community of gut bacteria is also essential — and for many people, overuse of antibiotics is a problem.

Research has shown that a single course of ciproflaxin, for instance, can disrupt a third of the microbe species naturally present in our gut, and other work has suggested that in some people, the microbiome might never really recover. Over-the-counter probiotic productsmeanwhile, usually just have a single species of bacteria, and can't replace the diversity of microbes that have been lost.

Killing your gut bacteria can lead to many problems, in some cases giving harmful bacteria, like C. But it can also lead to overly soft, unpleasant poops. For these reasons, Chutkan recommends thinking carefully before asking for or accepting a case of antibiotics, and making sure that the infection you're seeking to treat really needs it.

Everybody poops. but here are 9 surprising facts about feces you may not know.

The explanation for the widely-observed corn-kernel-in-poop phenomenon is pretty simple: the outside of a kernel of corn is made of cellulose, that indigestible plant fiber. We can digest the inside of the kernel, but the hull makes it through us unscathed. This is also true for lots of other parts of plants — like, for example, kale stems — but corn's bright yellow color stands out, making it easy to spot. There's a benefit to this phenomenon. If you're interested in tracking how long it takes food to transit through your body — whether to gauge the health of your digestive system, or just to satisfy your curiosity — you can use corn kernels as a tracker.

It might not be a huge surprise, because different diets lead to different types of poop. But Chutkan says that the feces of most people in the developing world are noticeably different from those of people eating a Western diet, mostly because the latter contains so much less fiber.

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A very fiber-heavy diet — the type eaten by many people in developing countries, and by some vegetarians in the US — le to much denser and bulkier poops. Western-style stools, by contrast, are much softer, and the colon has to push harder to get them out.

The first few bowel movements of a newborn infant are called meconium — and if you've never seen it before, it's pretty bizarre. It's the result of nutrients consumed by the infant inside the womb, and it's a dark green, tar-like substance. It looks so different from normal poop because of the sorts of things the baby was consuming in the uterus: amniotic fluid, blood and skin cells, and mucus. A doctor prepares for a fecal transplant in a North Carolina hospital. It might seem crazy, but research increasingly tells us that the most effective way to treat C. The formal name for this is a fecal transplant.

That doesn't mean you should try it at home.

How often should you poop each day?

But controlled studies have found that fecal transplants have success rates around 90 percent, higher than any antibiotic. This makes sense: a C. This is becoming an increasingly mainstream procedure, and researchers are currently working on alternate means of fecal transplant deliveries, like frozen poop or pills that can be taken orally.

Further reading: Everybody farts. But here are 9 surprising facts about flatulence you may not know. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower through understanding. Financial contributions from our readers are a critical part of supporting our resource-intensive work and help us keep our journalism free for all. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today to help us keep our work free for all.

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Everybody poops. But here are 9 surprising facts about feces you may not know. Reddit Pocket Flipboard .

But that doesn't mean everybody's aware of all there is to know about it. Here are some facts about poop you might like to know. Kathryn Cross, IFR It's tempting to think of feces as simply the used-up remains of the food you ate — the stuff that makes it through after digestion.

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But that leaves so many awkward or embarrassing issues unaddressed.


Sorry, s, but polio, poodle skirts and old-school societal views are OUT.


True love means being able to take a poop , no matter the time or place.


You also probably have some type of pooping routine.