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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.

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:

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.

Poop: What’s Really in It

Water makes up about 75 percent of your stool. The rest is an often-stinky combination of fiber, dead and live bacteria, other cells, and mucus. Soluble fiber found in foods like beans and nuts is broken down during digestion and forms a gel-like substance that becomes part of your poop.

On the other hand, foods packed with insoluble fiber, such as corn, oat bran, and carrots, are more difficult for your body to digest, which explains why they may emerge in your poop (stool) looking relatively unchanged.

Color Matters When It Comes to Poop (Stool)

Poop and the color can vary — a lot — depending on what kinds of food you’ve ingested and other factors. Dr. Sheth has seen patients get full work-ups for a bright red stool that turned out to be nothing more than the passing of beets. Leafy vegetables can cause green stool, while certain medications can make your poop look white or clay-colored. Look out for jet-black stool. Though it could be from something as harmless as iron supplements or black licorice, the color could be a sign of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract.

Poop Shows and Shape Matters Too

Another advocate at looking at your poop before you flush is Mehmet Oz, MD, the host of The Dr. Oz Show, who explained during a now-famous appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show that the perfect poop is log-like and S-shaped, not broken up into pieces. Part of getting that log-style shape, compared with poop that comes out more pebbly-looking, comes from eating fiber, which lends bulk to stool and acts as a glue to keep the poop stuck together as it exits your body. Pencil-thin poops, on the other hand, can be a sign of rectal cancer, which narrows the opening through which stool passes.

Terrible-Smelling Stool May Be a Sign of Infection

It’s no news that poop never smells pleasant, but the particularly pungent stool is often a sign of infection, according to Sheth. Terrible-smelling poops are a signature side effect of one stomach bug caused by the parasite giardia, ingested most often by swimming in freshwater lakes. It could also suggest a more serious digestive condition such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease.

Just How Often Should You Poop?

Do you hit the bathroom at the same exact time every morning, or can you go days before you need to poop? It’s all normal, the important thing is that you’re consistent for your own routine. A big decrease in poop (stool) could be due to a diet change (fiber intake), which is why many people find they’re less regular on weekends or vacation — they may be eating less fiber or working out less often, both of which promote healthy digestion. Other factors affecting poop output — either a decrease or an increase — are gastrointestinal disorders, an overactive thyroid, or colon cancer.

Diarrhea Is Your Poop (Stool) 

Digestion can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, during which time the food you’ve eaten travels down your esophagus to your stomach, then to your small intestine, your large intestine, and out through the anus.

Diarrhea is the result of your poop passing too quickly through the large intestine, where most of the water content is absorbed. (Constipation, on the other hand, is when it takes too long for stool to pass through.) Loose stools can be due to many factors, including stomach viruses and food-borne illnesses. They can also result from food allergies or intolerances, like lactose intolerance, or other digestive issues.

Healthy Poop (Stool) Should Sink in the Toilet

Listen to the sound of your poop (stool) as it hits the water in the toilet. Floating stools are often an indication of high-fat content, which can be a sign of malabsorption, a condition in which you can’t absorb enough fat and other nutrients from the food you’re ingesting. When your poop (stool) floats, it is associated with celiac disease or chronic pancreatitis.

It’s Normal to Pass Gas 10 to 18 Times a Day

Incidents of flatulence are embarrassing, at least for some, but this result of harmless bacteria breaking down food in the large intestine is completely healthy. Your colon is filled with bacteria that release gas as a by-product of digesting the food you eat. Your body absorbs some of it into the bloodstream, which you breathe out through your lungs, and expels the rest out of your other end. It’s normal to pass gas anywhere from 10 to 18 times a day, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.

Poop (Stool) Transplants Are Proven to Work

Fecal microbiota transplants are real — and they work. A study just released at the American College of Gastroenterology’s annual meeting found that such transplants — in which stool from a healthy person is placed in the colon of an infected person — helped treat bouts of recurrent diarrhea associated with a C. difficile bacterial infection. Such transplants have also effectively treated inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The trillions of good bacteria in a healthy person’s poop can help recolonize the digestive tract and treat infections that haven’t responded well to other treatments, including antibiotics and probiotics.

So how do you ask someone to be your poop donor? And more importantly ,asking someone whose healthy gut bacteria likely differs from yours; ideally, a friend or family member who lives in a different household.

Reading on the Toilet Isn’t So Healthy

Studies suggest that the more time you spend in the bathroom, specifically reading, the more likely you are to develop hemorrhoids or swollen blood vessels in and around the anus. It sounds like a strange correlation, but think about it: The longer you stay in the bathroom trying to poop, the more pressure and stress you put down there. Sitting for too long on the toilet can also restrict blood flow around the anal area, which can make hemorrhoids worse.

Most of the time, a diet devoid of fiber, which keeps your bowels regular and prevents constipation and hard poop (stool), is to blame. Most Americans eat 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day; doctors recommend 30 to 35 grams to prevent hemorrhoids, according to researchers from Los Angeles Medical Center.

Is Your Cell Phone Covered With Poop (Stool)?

Wash your hands well after using the bathroom, or poop may travel with you. In a study released in 2011, British researchers discovered that one in six cell phones may be contaminated with poop (stool) that can spread E. coli bacteria after they collected nearly 400 samples in 12 different cities.

Since phones tend to travel with everywhere — especially places where we eat, like kitchen counters, restaurant tables, and desks, to name a few — the E. coli bacteria detected on them may play a role in spreading illness.

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CROHN’S & COLITIS AWARENESS

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An Invisable Disease

Crohn’s and colitis are considered invisible illnesses because the diseases aren’t visible on the outside. So, while someone may look fine, their intestines may be inflamed and ulcerated, they may be in excruciating pain, and their immune system is essentially attacking itself.

Because Crohn’s and Colitis are invisible disabilities, some passengers may feel that they will be judged by asking a member of staff for help or having to spend time trying to explain their symptoms.

Imagine suffering from debilitating chronic pain. Every step you take causes discomfort, and it’s perpetually at the forefront of your mind. The internal battle you’re fighting takes mental and physical energy and just going through daily tasks can be debilitating. However, those looking at you may have no indication you’re suffering, let alone that you have a chronic disease. You suffer from an invisible illness.

WHAT IS AN INVISIBLE ILLNESS?

An invisible illness is one that does not exhibit externally visible signs or symptoms. Those with invisible illnesses and disabilities may have symptoms such as pain, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, or mental health disorders. Many of these conditions deeply impact the people suffering, but show no obvious signs to an outside observer.

By 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 157 million Americans will be afflicted with a chronic illness and the US Census Bureau estimates 96% of chronic illnesses are invisible. Invisible illnesses disproportionately impact women and many are not yet well understood by health care providers or the general public. This lack of understanding inevitably contributes to feelings of isolation and hopelessness for those suffering from such conditions.

CHALLENGES OF LIVING WITH AN INVISIBLE ILLNESS

In addition to the various symptoms of a chronic and invisible illness, people suffering from these illnesses can also experience frustration, guilt, exhaustion, and embarrassment.

For those diagnosed with an illness at a young age, the common stereotype that younger populations are supposed to be healthy makes it especially difficult. For those diagnosed later in life, many feel guilty they are unable to more actively participate in the lives of their families and be active with their children and grandchildren.

Invisible illnesses impact people in all aspects of their lives, personally and professionally. They can severely impact the ability to routinely work and may lead to social isolation and depression.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

Nearly all of those experiencing an invisible illness have to deal with common misconceptions regarding their condition. Here are just a few of those most frequently dealt with.

  • The way a person looks reflects how they’re feeling physically. Someone may look healthy, but that doesn’t mean they are.
  • Invisible illnesses are ‘all in the person’s head.’ Keeping stress at a minimum may reduce symptoms of a chronic illness, but it doesn’t mean the root cause of the disease is psychological.
  • Resting up will make people feel better. Just as people not suffering from chronic or invisible illness are unable to bank sleep (rest for a long period of time in order to recoup or “make-up” sleep or to expend extra energy), neither are those with chronic illnesses. The same amount of rest leading up to different events, on different days, may not yield the same results, as symptoms ebb and flow, often unpredictably.
  • If a person suffering from a chronic illness is enjoying themselves, they must feel ok. Don’t assume a person who’s enjoying themselves, laughing, and participating in activities is symptom-free. Many people have learned to cope with their symptoms to participate in important events and activities, but that does not mean they are feeling well.
  • Stress reduction techniques are a cure for chronic pain and illness. While these techniques may assist with symptom relief, they are not a cure-all.
  • Being home all day is a dream lifestyle. Being home all day, but in constant pain and suffering from an invisible illness does not make for a dream lifestyle, regardless of location. Many people are often couch-bound or bed-bound due to extreme pain. They also experience boredom, as not being able to actively participate in the world around them can be frustrating and disappointing.
  • Those in chronic pain are ‘drug seekers’. People in chronic pain are often misunderstood and mistreated by the medical community. They get labeled as “drug seekers” in emergency rooms and, as a result, are denied much-needed pain medication.

HOW TO SUPPORT OTHERS WITH INVISIBLE ILLNESSES

If you know someone with an invisible illness, there are several things you can do to support them. It’s important to remember everyone wants to enjoy life and no one wants to be a burden; however, people suffering from chronic and invisible illnesses do appreciate your support and understanding.

  • Accept you are powerless to make them better. Your love and understanding are what they need.
  • Take time to talk to them and learn about their illness. Ask questions about symptoms and treatments, and be patient. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to understand and show empathy.
  • Be with them when they need it and give them space when they want it. Many chronic illnesses become socially isolating, as people are house-bound or lose companions due to the lack of understanding around invisible illnesses. Being around and access may be one of the best support methods available.
  • Try not to get frustrated. One of the biggest challenges associated with invisible illnesses is you get sick and then you continue to get sick, the cycle does not stop. At times, this may get frustrating to caregivers and it’s important for them to realize it’s normal for people suffering this way to be emotionally needy, distant, angry, or sad.
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Crohns Disease and bad weather

We know that Crohn’s disease can equal big gastrointestinal problems, but we don’t fully know what causes this condition. Genetics and the environment are thought to play roles, along with your body’s unique response to bacteria in your intestines. Another theory is a possible link between Crohn’s and the weather or climate where you live.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, who collected information on 175,912 women 15 to 30 years old, found that the incidence of Crohn’s disease increased significantly among those living in more northern latitudes. This was especially true for women in the older age range.

Experts aren’t sure what it is about Crohn’s and weather that could cause more cases up north, but one possible explanation is that there’s less sunlight or UVB radiation exposure in these areas, which in turn means that your body makes less vitamin D and doesn’t get as strong an immunity boost as it does in sunnier climes.

Another theory relates to health issues delineated by geography. “Generally areas farther from the equator are more developed countries, with lower incidences of gastrointestinal infections and parasites,” says Ghassan T. Wahbeh, MD, director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics and gastroenterology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The theory is that in warmer areas closer to the equator, exposure to common GI bugs may mean the immune system is better able to fight off Crohn’s, “ in contrast to the unexposed gut immune system in cleaner environments,” he says.

Crohn’s and Weather: Putting the Forecast in Your Favor

Just as there’s no “one size fits all” nutrition plan for managing Crohn’s, there’s no ideal Crohn’s climate or geographic region that can rule out Crohn’s flares for everyone. Visit the online Crohn’s Forum, for example, and you’ll see that people’s experiences vary wildly, with some describing worse symptoms in winter and others saying summer heat causes them problems.

Individual experiences aside, however, there are some important warm weather Crohn’s tips to keep in mind, whether you live in the sun year-round or are planning a vacation escape.

“Staying in warmer climates mandates proper hydration, more so for patients with active disease and symptoms who are at risk of dehydration,” says Dr. Wahbeh. Kidney stones can also be a concern for people with inflammatory bowel disease and another reason to stay on top of your beverage consumption. On average, you should be drinking 80 or more ounces every day to stay hydrated.

Keep in mind that whether you’re experiencing bouts of diarrhea from Crohn’s disease or excessive sweating because of warm or hot weather, you’ll need to drink more water. Fever and vomiting can also contribute to dehydration. Signs to watch out for include dry mouth or mucous membranes, little or no urine or urine that’s dark yellow in color, a lack of tears, sunken eyes, and lethargy. There’s also the risk for coma in very serious cases.

People with an inflammatory bowel disease also have a greater than normal risk for skin cancer, according to Wahbeh. Experts aren’t certain how much of the risk is due to the disease itself and how much can be attributed to the side effects of the medications used to treat it. However, there’s no doubt that you should religiously apply a broad spectrum sunscreen and double up on sun protection by wearing wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and even clothing that can block UVA and UVB rays.

Living with Crohn’s disease has its challenges, but taking into account Crohn’s and weather factors, as well as following warm weather Crohn’s tips, living and playing in hot weather is certainly possible and perhaps even more pleasurable.

Wrap up stay safe and warm its going to be along 2021

all the best

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