Things that come out of the human body – breath, urine, stool, sweat – can all be great indicators of what's going on inside. We often tend to wait, however, until these things look, feel, or smell particularly unusual to think something may be wrong. What we're often missing are the signs along the way that could help us get to know our bodies better to maintain it, know when something is wrong, and decrease the likelihood of medical emergencies.
Your stool is the perfect example. It doesn't have to be a watery mess to give you a host of helpful information. Each bowel movement can really tell you something. Especially now that we have some time on our hands, you might as well take a look in the bowl the next time you go. But first, keep scrolling to equip yourself with the knowledge to discern what you might see and to read what people in both Europe and the US are finding in their toilets. We spoke to more than 1,000 people on both sides of the pond and asked them to share the intimate details of their time on the toilet. Keep reading to see what they said.
Before we get into what's in the toilet bowl, let's take a data-based look at how we're sitting on it. Most often, respondents said they typically sit with their backs slumped over to defaecate. As you can see in the graphic below, this means that 50.2% of people lean over towards their knees with their feet on the ground while pooping. Just 11.4% made use of a footstool, which is the ideal position for healthy defaecation.
To understand why, a little anatomy lesson may be necessary. According to WebMD, the rectum operates much like a garden hose, for which a kink can help prevent anything (i.e., water or faeces) from escaping. This kink stays in position when a person is sitting, making defaecation much harder. For those who are squatting, however, the kink is removed, and "water" can start to flow more easily from the "garden hose."
Regardless of the position from which stool emerged, it was usually sausage-shaped: a shape that included cracks on the surface for 38.1% of people, a smooth and soft exterior for 37.8%, and a lumpy appearance for 9.9% people. Seventy-eight per cent had also noticed food particles in their faeces, which is nothing to be concerned about. Very few people, fortunately, experienced consistently watery diarrhoea. If you are experiencing this for more than two days, it's time to see a doctor.
Even children know that "Everybody Poops," but it isn't always easy for adults to just go. Fourteen per cent of respondents said their bowel movements were difficult to complete, and 20% experienced discomfort afterwards. Post-bowel pain could mean anything , so it's important to see a doctor to more specifically describe the type of pain you are experiencing if you fall into this camp. There may be absolutely no reason to worry, or there might be a need for medical intervention. Either way, you should know. In the meantime, 35% of respondents tried consuming fibre to make defaecating easier, while another 17% relied on probiotics to do the job.
Defaecation constituted a piece of the morning routine for most Europeans and Americans. Waking up and pooping was the most common time to defaecate for 61.8% of people. Throughout the rest of the day, it was not uncommon to forgo pooping again: 51.5% of respondents had just one bowel movement each day. Nearly 27% went again within the day, and only 21.8% pooped any more or less than this. That said, pooping from anywhere between three times a day to three times per week is considered normal and healthy. Anything more or less may call for a doctor's consultation.
Colours, as well as days of the week, ran the gamut for poop experiences. Thirty-six per cent had defaecated the colour green, 26% had seen black in the bowl and 18% even saw red faeces. Unlike the range of frequency, however, colours are a bit more concerning, particularly red and black.
You've heard what's in the bowl of 512 Europeans and 515 Americans, but now it's time to get personal and ask yourself what your stool might be telling you. In the above infographic, you can choose the illustration and description that most closely represents what you typically see after each bowel movement, and then click through to find out what it's trying to tell you.
Each of these descriptions and diagnoses is informed by the Bristol Stool Chart, which helps assess how long each stool has spent inside the bowels. They've categorised seven types, shapes, and descriptions, each of which is an indicator of health. You're welcome to revisit this chart whenever nature calls.
When we put the public's poop knowledge to the test, people from both regions performed like they defaecated: very well. In other words, both public knowledge and defaecation seemed healthy for the most part. Nearly 94% were aware that gut bacteria and plant fibre were essential for a good poop. Around 92% also knew that a change in stool could indicate a medical problem. Roughly 91% knew that a low-fibre intake could cause constipation.
However, not as many (22.2%) knew that men and women defaecate differently, but they actually do. Because the bacteria in male and female guts differ, the smell and colour often differ as well. Frequency of defaecation was the most commonly misunderstood myth: Nearly three-quarters of people thought a healthy person should have one single, consistent poop each day. As previously discussed, however, healthy frequency could range anywhere from three times daily to three times weekly.
The other mistake we saw many respondents making was not seeking appropriate medical attention when necessary. Although 21% of respondents had diagnosed themselves with digestive issues, only 18% had visited a doctor about the issues over the last five years. And despite 21% reporting having changed their diet, it's best to keep your doctor informed of any bodily concerns, especially if you've noticed black or red stools or have had persistent diarrhoea.
We're incredibly grateful to the more than 1,000 respondents who chose to share some intimate details of their bowel movements with us. The data provided helped to reveal what many Europeans and Americans are getting right and wrong about this particular indicator of health. After all, we spend an average of one hour and 42 minutes every week, or nearly 92 days of our lifetime, sitting on the toilet.
And speaking of the immense amount of time spent in the bathroom, shouldn't these areas be in perfect working condition and be easy on the eyes? It may seem like a lot to ask, but QS Supplies is here to help. We offer everything from bathroom sinks, grab bars, bidets to toilet and shower options that can make your plumbing flow seamlessly with your life. So, head to QS Supplies today to start sprucing up one of the most important aspects of your home and your life!
We conducted a survey of 512 Europeans and 515 Americans and asked them questions related to their bowel movements. Fifty-five per cent of our respondents identified as male, 45% identified as female, and less than 1% identified as nonbinary. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 80 with an average of 37 and a standard deviation of 12. Additionally, a second survey of 958 Americans was conducted to explore digestive health patterns among the respondents. An attention-check question was used to identify and disqualify respondents who failed to read questions in their entirety. The main limitation of this study is its reliance on self-reporting, which is faced with myriad issues from attribution to exaggeration, telescoping, recency bias and more.
Getting people over their awkwardness and onto a search for health is a primary goal of this research. If you'd like to share our findings, please feel free to do so; just be sure your purposes are noncommercial and you link back to this page.
Disclaimer: QS Supplies does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.