Ever wondered what’s in your faeces? Gastroenterologist reveals all
Ever wondered what’s in your faeces? Gastroenterologist reveals all (and he says vegetarians have the runniest stools)
- If you’ve ever thought your faeces is just a bunch of dead cells, think again
- Dr Vincent Ho is an academic gastroenterologist at Western Sydney University
- Vegetarians have a higher water content in their stools, Dr Ho revealed
If you’ve ever thought your faeces is just a bunch of dead cells, think again.
A lot of it is alive, teeming with billions of microbes, according to Dr Vincent Ho, a clinical academic gastroenterologist at Western Sydney University.
Here, in a piece for The Conversation, he reveals what scientific studies in healthy adults have shown make up our faeces.
If you’ve ever thought your faeces is just a bunch of dead cells, think again. Most of it is alive, teeming with billions of microbes, according to Dr Vincent Ho, a clinical academic gastroenterologist at Western Sydney University
Our faeces is largely (75 per cent) made up of water, although this differs from person to person.
Vegetarians have a higher water content in their stools. Those who consume less fibre and more protein have a lower water content.
Fibre has a high water-carrying ability and makes our stools more bulky, increases the frequency of bowel movements and makes the process of passing bowel motions easier.
The other 25 per cent of faeces is made up of solids, which are mainly organic (relating to living matter) materials.
Patients are at risk of going BLIND as thousands wait for…
Trendy farmers’ markets could spread food poisoning ‘because…
Another child dies of adenovirus at New Jersey pediatric…
The man who cries BLOOD: Gruesome picture of bloody tears…
Share this article
A small proportion of solids is made up of inorganic material such as calcium and iron phosphate as well as dried constituents of digestive juices.
Around 25-54 per cent of the organic material is made up of microbes (dead and living), such as bacteria and viruses.
Bacteria in faeces have been extensively studied. It’s estimated there are nearly 100billion bacteria per gram of wet stool.
WHAT TIPS ARE THERE TO KEEP YOUR STOOLS HEALTHY?
Eat more fibre – Constipation is often due to inadequate fibre. Good sources include fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, wholegrains, nuts and bran based cereal.
Drink more water – Since constipation is caused by dehydration in the colon, you need to make sure you are drinking lots of water. When you are properly hydrated, less water will be withdrawn from the colon. This will keep your stool soft and easy to pass.
Don’t rely on laxatives – Improper use of laxatives can actually make symptoms of constipation worse.
Reduce stress – This can cause the large intestine to spasm, leading to pain and hard stools. Techniques that may help include yoga, meditation and exercise.
One study that looked at a collection of fresh stools in oxygen-free conditions (as oxygen can damage certain types of bacteria) found almost 50 per cent of the bacteria were alive.
The different types of bacteria present in faeces can influence how hard or loose stool samples can be.
For example, Prevotella bacteria, which can be found in the mouth, vagina and gut, are more commonly seen in those with soft stools. In fact, a high-fibre diet is strongly associated with these bacteria.
Ruminococcaceae bacteria, which are common gut microbes that break down complex carbohydrates, favour harder stools.
Viruses have been less studied than bacteria as components of the gut microbiota – the population of bacteria and viruses that live in our gut. It is estimated there are 100million to 1billion viruses per gram of wet faeces in most of us.
This number can change considerably when people become sick with viral gastroenteritis, such as in norovirus infections, where levels of more than a trillion viruses per gram of stool can be found.
Certain types of viruses that infect bacteria, called bacteriophages, have been linked to diseases of the gut like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Archaea are bacteria-like microbes that can inhabit some of the most extreme environments on Earth such as hot springs, deep sea vents or extremely acidic waters. Archaea that produce methane are known to live in the human gut and account for around 10 per cent of non-oxygen-dependent microbes.
Bacteria in faeces have been extensively studied. It’s estimated there are nearly 100billion bacteria per gram of wet stool
Such methane-producing archaea like Methanobrevibacter are associated with harder stools and constipation as methane can slow down intestinal movement. It is believed there are around 100million archaea per gram of wet faeces.
Single-celled fungi (yeasts) are present in the gut of about 70 per cent of healthy adults. They occur in estimated concentrations of up to a million microorganisms per gram of wet faeces but comprise only a small proportion (0.03 per cent) of all microbes.
Other organic material
Some of the organic material includes carbohydrates or any other undigested plant matter, protein and undigested fats.
HOW MUCH FAECES WILL YOU PRODUCE IN YOUR LIFE?
Scientists uncovered in March how much the average person goes to the toilet to have a number two in their lifetime.
An average woman, living to the US life expectancy of 81 years old, will create an astonishing 25,920lbs (11,757kg) of faeces, which is the equivalent of around three adult male hippos, a study by the University of California, San Diego, found.
Due to western men typically dying at around 76 years old, most produce less at approximately 24,320lbs (11,030kg) of excrement in their lives, the research adds.
Even in the space of just one year, the average adult’s total stool production weighs a little more than an adult panda at 320lbs (145kg), the study found.
Faeces does not contain large quantities of carbohydrates as the majority of what we eat is absorbed. However, undigested amounts remain as dietary fibre.
Some two-25 per cent of organic matter in faeces is due to nitrogen-containing substances such as undigested dietary protein, and protein from bacteria and cells lining the colon that have been shed.
Fats contribute two-15 per cent of the organic material in our faeces. The amount of fat excreted into our stools is highly dependent on dietary intake.
Even with no fat intake, though, we do get some excretion of fat into our faeces. Fat in faeces can come from bacteria in the form of short-chain fatty acids when they ferment foods, in addition to undigested dietary fat.
A recent study has found that microscopic plastic particles can appear in our faeces when we drink from plastic bottles or eat foods that have been wrapped in plastic.
This small study of eight participants who were exposed to plastics in their food and drink identified up to nine different types of plastics in their stools.
But we need larger studies and additional analytical research to understand the clinical significance of this.
Faeces is different in disease
Not everyone’s faeces is going to be the same. Diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease can lead to changes in the type of bacteria in our gut and result in raised inflammatory proteins that can be detected in our stool.
The presence of blood in the stool could signal bowel cancer, though this isn’t always the case.
Fortunately there is a good screening test that can pick up the presence of trace blood in the stools and lead to further investigations such as a colonoscopy.
Source: Read Full Article