Poop Science: 5 Amazing Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Human Waste [VIDEO]

By Anthony Smith on November 13, 2012 3:35 PM EST

Butterflies Are Free to Eat Poop
Bonus Poop Science Fact: The Drury's Jewel, a beautiful species of diurnal butterfly, eats bird poop. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Poop science is more important than you may think. Like an expensive oral thermometer, studying one human's excrement (known scientifically as "feces" but most affectionately as "poop") consistently proves to be an accurate measure of hir general health. Though some of us try to hide it, everybody poops; but very few of us have really gotten down and dirty with the mechanics of why and how our body does what it does.

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Roll up your sleeves and get reading: here are five amazing facts you probably didn't know about human waste.

1. Poop Color Matters

When it comes to the color of our poop and the science behind it, all you really have to know is that, typically, the browner the stool, the healthier it is. Contrary to a popular misconception, our poop turns brown not because of a hodgepodge of colorings in the foods we eat (like when you mix every paint in the easel together), but from the breakdown of iron-filled red blood cells in the intestines.

Essentially, a regular, healthy brown poop is a poop that has rusted over. And that's a rust you should be happy to have.

Don't be too worried about a green poop-- chances are, it could be caused by having too much iron in your diet (think Statue of Liberty, and old pennies). If you've been eating a lot of spinach, or any foods with green food coloring, you have your answer right there.

However, if your diet has been devoid of verdantry, then another possibility is that your green poops are being caused by a colony of parasites living in your colon. If you see yourself gaining or losing weight, getting regular bouts of constipation and/or diarrhea, or if your gut is protruding, it's important to go see a doctor.

And yes, beets will turn your poop red, and bismuths such as Pepto Bismol will turn your stool black.

2. Why Some Poop Floats And Others Sink?

Think about one of your first ever lessons in science: solids are denser than liquids which are denser than gasses.

Now, apply that science to your poop. For humans who don't have a malabsorption problem such as celiac disease or cystic fibrosis, excess gas in poop is what makes it float. Excess gas comes around when dietary changes (particularly the eschewing of meat) causes bacteria living in the intestine to produce more

Common wisdom says that sinking is caused by excess fat one's stool, and while there's truth to that, it's more for people whose bodies have problems breaking down and absorbing compounds.

3. "We Are Such Things As Poop Is Made Of"

Okay, so Shakespeare never wrote those words, but chances are that the Bard had his fair share of poops. O, that he could use his way with words to explain to us what comprises the average stool!

Surprisingly enough, water makes up approximately three-fourth of most healthy bowel movements. Of that remaining 25%, we can expect to see a combination of dead bacteria, live bacteria, random cells, mucus, and various fibers.

Digestible fibers, such as those found in legumes and nuts, break down during digestion into an icky gel.

And in case you've never looked yourself (liar), the myth is true: corn, which constitutes an insoluble fiber, can leave your body looking exactly the same as when it went in. Same goes for carrots, too.

4. Do Different Cultures Poop Differently? One Poop Anthropologist Thinks So

Dr. Anish Sheth, most commonly known as Dr. Stool in the science community, comprised a study (and even developed an app!) that broke down how we poop-- both as individual humans and as collective cultures.

Beyond the cultural melting pot of the United States, Dr. Sheth determined a difference in bowel relief between different cultures. According to his findings, people in South Asia poop just about three times as much as British people do.

For the West, the most common cultural bowel phenomenon is something we're calling deja poo: that is to say, a fixed schedule for the relieving of one's bowels.

5. You Don't Even Need A Smell-O-Scope!

To paraphrase a famous syllogism: everyone's poop smells not nice. But when your poop stinks too much, it could mean that something is seriously wrong. One cause of particular pungent stools is a parasite known as giardia that makes its home in the stomach. Most people introduce giardia to their system when they go for a swim in fresh water.

But if you haven't been swimming in a lake very recently, then chances are your consistently house-clearing poops could be caused by ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, Chron's disease, or poor diet. See a doctor and a dietician immediately.

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Did we miss a really good poop fact? Let us know in the comments section below! And don't worry-- you can post anonymously if you want!

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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