Health

13 Ridiculous Facts About Poop That'll Make You Sh*t Your Pants

Published On 11/22/2016 Published On 11/22/2016
poop truck
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

You know coffee makes you poop. You know poop shapes are important, tracking your bowel movements is a thing now, and sometimes poop can be green

But even if you've been dropping logs your whole life, there's a lot of weird and wonderful facts you might not know about feces. Here are some of the craziest things we've found. 

There's a phenomenon that makes people have to poop upon entering a bookstore

There's something so calming, so relaxing about bookstores: the smell of fresh ink and paper, the quiet atmosphere, the raging urge to run to the bathroom and drop a deuce. Maybe it's the coffee you downed from the requisite cafe, but people getting the urge to poop in bookstores is a rather common phenomenon.

So common, in fact, it has a name: the Mariko Aoki phenomenon. The name comes from a Japanese woman who first described the feeling in 1985. While there's no real clinical definition of the condition, or any established causes, there are a few theories about why people suddenly have to poop after browsing the latest YA fantasy novels: The smell of ink or paper could have a laxative effect, people associate reading in bookstores with reading at home on the toilet, and the posture you have while you're looking at books is prime for taking a dump. 

Sounds super-legit, right?! The Mariko Aoki phenomenon isn't in any medical literature, obviously, but there are plenty of different people who experience this urge, enough to make it a veritable phenomenon.  

Lots of poop can spontaneously combust

If you've ever been the victim of the ole light-a-bag-of-shit-and-leave-it-on-the-doorstep prank, then you know a pile of poop somehow smells even worse when it's aflame. It turns out that you might not even need a lighter to pull this off; on a record-hot July day in 2016, a huge pile of horse manure spontaneously caught fire in upstate New York. How lovely for residents in all the neighboring towns!

The conditions were just hot and dry enough to have the massive pile of shit catch fire, sans spark. All that a fire needs is the proper mixture of heat, oxygen, and fuel, which the horse manure unfortunately had. Although there aren't any recorded incidents of this happening with human feces -- why would there be huge piles of human poop just baking out in the summer heat anyway? -- hypothetically, if the conditions were just right (or wrong?) enough, it could.

Speaking of fire... you can start one in your colon

Your GI system thrives thanks to a collection of healthy bacteria. These bacteria ultimately produce gas, which is why you fart all the time. If one of those gases happens to be hydrogen sulfide, this can spell disaster during a colonoscopy procedure. 

Gastroenterologist Urvish Shah explains that when someone is getting a polyp removed from the colon, it's usually burned off with a cautery. With an abundance of gas, however, the cautery can spark, resulting in a brief flame.

"If the person has too much hydrogen sulfide in [the colon] and if you are using cautery to cut the polyp... it can happen," he says. Yikes! Luckily, this fire-in-your-ass situation is incredibly rare. He's only ever heard about it, and never seen it in practice. 

It's possible to poop out of your mouth

It's called fecal vomiting, and aside from being utterly disgusting and terrifying, it's an indicator of a major health problem. Though if you're vomiting your own poop, you probably know you have a major health problem. When people have a blockage in their small or large intestine, known as an intestinal obstruction, waste can't travel to the rectum.

"If you have an obstruction generally in the lower small intestine or within the colon, you can eat food but it has nowhere to go," says Dr. Ben Dalton, gastroenterologist at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. "Eventually, you hit a critical mass and if it cannot get out from the south, it'll come out the north." That means you will vomit fecal matter; it probably won't look like regular poop, but it's as disgusting as it sounds.

Fecal vomiting is usually accompanied by abdominal pain, dehydration, and constipation, and untreated blockages could lead to death. Fortunately, Dr. Dalton says this is pretty rare. 

Your poop is full of fat, bacteria, dead cells, and more! 

Turds (usually) slide nicely out of your digestive tract because they're made mostly out of water, about 75% percent. Of the 25% that's solid, the biggest component is bacteria, with the rest being a mix of indigestible food matter, fat, inorganic substances, and protein. Your poop is (usually) brown because of the way bacteria work on bilirubin, a pigment in bile that's the end result of dead red blood cells. So there's a lot of dead stuff and bacteria in your crap. 

There's millions of dollars in silver and gold hiding in poop

One of the fortunate results of modern sewage systems is that you don't have to use outhouses. One of the unfortunate results is that a bunch of precious metal winds up in the sewage, incapable of being put to good use. 

Scientists presenting to the American Chemical Society last year said that there are tiny fragments of metal everywhere -- beauty products, deodorant, even socks -- that wind up literally flushed down the drain. Metals like gold, silver, platinum, and everyone's favorite, vanadium, are present in commercially viable amounts in poop. One estimate calculated that the shit of 1 million Americans may contain $13 million in metal. All someone has to do is go get it.  

Even if you don't eat, you'll still poop

Sure, some foods make you poop more than others, and it can take on the color and texture of your latest meal. But even if you don't eat anything, you'll still need to take a dump. That's because poo is made up of more than just the food you ingest.

"If you don’t eat, you can still have feces because the body produces secretions. Juices from the pancreas, intestinal lining, bile, gastric juices, all those juices are mixed together, that produces the liquid stool that empties from the small bowel into the colon, which is the large bowel," Dr. Shah says. "And the large bowel’s function is to absorb all the water from the feces. That’s why the feces that comes out of the rectum is really solid." 

There's poop on the moon 

One giant leap for bowel movement-kind? When the Apollo astronauts wanted to take back some moon rocks as souvenirs, they had to make some room on the spaceship to accommodate the weight. That meant letting go of some waste -- 96 bags, to be exact, of poop, pee, and puke. Although it makes total sense, it's an unfortunate discovery for the next group of astronauts or Martians who make a moon landing. Although the smell on the moon probably isn't nearly as bad as it is on a hot July day on Earth...

Poop transplants are a thing

Thanks to poop transplants, people suffering from Clostridium difficile infections -- when healthy bacteria in the gut die off, often as the result of antibiotics, and C. diff takes over, causing bad GI symptoms like raging diarrhea or life-threatening inflammation of the colon -- can finally find relief.

The process, although potentially life-saving, sounds pretty gross. Doctors take fresh poop, blend it into a slurry, and inject it into patients, usually via colonoscopy. Or, you can straight-up just eat the poop... sort of. 

"A patient ingests somebody else's poop," Dr. Shah says. "Now, they’re making it into pills. And it's very effective."

About 90% of people who get them are cured of their C. diff infections, compared to only 26% from medication. Thanks to its wild success, doctors are looking into using poop transplants for other GI issues, such as IBS or ulcerative colitis. Poop -- saving lives, one transplant at a time.

You can grow full plants from undigested seeds in your poop

Not everything you eat gets completely digested; this is why you can sometimes see little kernels of corn in your turds (fun fact: it's not the whole kernel, just the outside layer that isn't absorbed). The same thing goes for tomato seeds, as evidenced by this whole tomato plant grown out of human poop. 

Another tomato plant was discovered in a pile of feces on Surtsey, a volcanic island in Iceland, which begs the question: What else can be grown out of human poop? Watermelons? Lemons? The possibilities of a poop produce farm seem endless. 

You can drink poop

Well, technically you can drink water taken from poop, but it's basically the same thing. Not to worry; Bill Gates gives his stamp of approval for the Omniprocessor, a machine that takes human waste, extracts water, and sanitizes it to be used for drinking and to power electricity. Gates hopes this will solve the sanitation and contaminated drinking water problems poor countries face. And if the billionaire tech mogul says the water is just as good as bottled water, it must be legit. He did drink it himself, after all. 

There's a name for people who willingly eat poop

They're called coprophagics, which comes from the word coprophagy: the eating of feces. Although loads of animals do this too, it's most alarming in humans. The act of coprophagy is (you're not going to believe this) usually an indicator of a mental or developmental disorder. Doesn't exactly take a psychiatry degree to sort that one out. 

A 19-year-old man in South India was brought in for a psychiatric evaluation after he was observed eating not only his own poop after defecating, but also the poop of goats, cows, and dogs. Looking to possibly treat coprophagia, scientists studied a 6-year-old girl who enjoyed eating, smearing, and playing with poop so much, the researchers recreated a less toxic copycat version of poop made from flour, water, and food coloring. The little girl still loved playing with and eating it. 

Human poop could be the power source of the future

Imagine if "gassing up" meant literally using poop to fuel your vehicle. That eco-friendly dream is now a reality in Bristol, England, thanks to a bus that's run entirely on household and human waste. It's powered by biomethane gas, which is created from sewage and food waste, collected from local households.

Although there's only one bus running at the moment, it's a pretty genius idea -- and riders swear it doesn't smell

Turns out, poop is more than just the smelly stuff in your toilet bowl and the inspiration behind your favorite emoji; it can save lives, power buses, create safe drinking water, and has even been to the moon. So maybe show your feces a little respect: Next time, instead of just flushing it down the toilet like some ungrateful human, donate it to someone in need, or use your turds to grow tomato plants in the backyard. (OK, maybe that's taking it a little too far.)

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Christina Stiehl is a Health and fitness staff writer for Thrillist. She's very familiar with the bathrooms in her neighborhood Barnes & Noble. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaStiehl.

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