Different animals make different kinds of poop
Even different smells
—From Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi
Everyone poops. While the children's book of the same name seeks to reassure people of this very truth, the act itself remains inexplicably profane by societal standards. We do not talk about our bowel movements. We joke about pooping. We craft pejorative portmanteaus like shitheel, shitbird and shitnado. But we almost never discuss it in a serious manner.
Poop comes in all shapes and sizes, from the small, hard lumps of constipation to a smooth sluglike stool sliding out of your anus. You can tell a lot from your poop. WW set out to explore this regular bodily function in search of the elusive perfect poop, the paragon of shit, through dieting, taking a dump from a new angle and more, ahem, experimental methods.
BUT WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PERFECT POOP?
The Bristol Stool Scale, developed in the U.K. at the University of Bristol in 1997, gives us a good idea. The scale runs the gamut from type 1 ("separate hard lumps, like nuts") to type 7 ("Watery, no solid pieces, entirely liquid"). Type 4, the golden mean of feces, is described as "like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft."
THE PERFECT POOP IS SOFT, YET SHAPELY.
As you may surmise from my weekly fast-food column and hectic freelance lifestyle, defecation is both an interesting subject and a highly variable experience for me. Be it the mad dash to a bathroom after dining at Taco Bell or the dark, malodorous goop of hung-over Saturday mornings, it isn't hard to glean the importance of one's diet.
Fiber is paramount to good pooping—oddly enough, because it cannot be digested by the human body. These structural bits and pieces of plant structure pass through the digestive system, absorbing water and sweeping up digesting food particles into a solidly formed shit.
Twenty-five to 35 grams of fiber a day is the goal set by the Portland Clinic. Bran cereal, beans, lentils, whole-wheat bread and apples with skin are all good places to find it.
THE PERFECT POOP IS BROWN.
Brown means the food has been digested and broken down. Black (or red) feces can mean there is blood in the stool or be the result of certain medications, as anyone who has gone on a Pepto-Bismol binge to combat diarrhea can tell you. Green means it didn't spend enough time in your intestine. Yellow or white means call your doctor.
THE PERFECT POOP SINKS TO THE BOTTOM.
Floaters, aside from spreading their foul odor throughout the bathroom, can be a sign that the stool is passing through your intestine too quickly for all its vital nutrients to be absorbed.
THE PERFECT POOP IS UNIFORM THROUGHOUT.
Chunks of whole corn kernels and other foodstuffs are also a sign of this malabsorption, along with less-than-desirable mastication.
Knowing what the platonic ideal of a bowel movement is and having one do not necessarily go hand in hand. Even with taking a daily fiber supplement, eating fibrous cereals every morning and exercising regularly, the friends I drop off at the pool still vary widely across the Bristol Stool Scale. The very classification of being regular can range from several bowel movements a day to thrice a week, and still be considered healthy. It's all relative to the individual.
THE PERFECT POOP IS ISSUED FROM A SQUAT.
It's easy to get bogged down with the what and why of your poop while completely forgetting another important factor: how you poop.
Since Sir John Harington invented the flush toilet in 1596, the upstanding, respectable Western person has sat on the ivory throne to drop a deuce. His or her days of squatting over a chamber pot—or heaven forbid, the bushes—were over. Human biology hasn't quite caught up with this preference.
If you think back to the human anatomy you learned in middle school, the large intestine doesn't seamlessly transition into the rectum: They join at a 90-degree angle. This is no mistake. This angle, called the anorectal angle, helps keep your shit in while you're standing. The anorectal angle increases when you sit down. It increases even more when you squat.
The greater the anorectal angle, the easier it is for poop to slide down. A 2003 study by Dr. Dov Sikirov of Israel found that among his 28 subjects, it took on average twice as long to poop while seated than while squatting. The subjects also uniformly stated that it was easier to defecate from the squatting posture—less time and effort spent trying to pinch off a loaf, the lower risk of hemorrhoids (swollen blood veins in your anal cavity) and less chance of impaction.
THE PERFECT POOP CAN BE MADE AT HOME.
While there are a number of commercial squatters—most notably Squatty Potty, which appeared on ABC's Shark Tank in November—I opted to make a squat toilet, partly because of the lengthy shipping delays caused by their popularity. Scouring through the garage for scrap wood, I put one together with a mixture of glue, screws, haphazardly placed nails and good, old-fashioned elbow grease.
As the sense of urgency for a bowel movement increased, I sprinted to my creation: a toilet 9 inches tall with a bamboo deck. I stepped onto the soft wooden platform and begin to squat. Unless you do squats at a gym, this is going to be an interesting, somewhat challenging position. And that's when it happened. There wasn't any straining. No frustrated groans. The stool just slid out.
I wiped my bum—much cleaner as the squatting separated my cheeks farther from the poop—and turned to have a look at my work. A slender, medium-brown stool, smooth and soft like a sausage or snake, gracefully sunk into the bowl and coiled into the hole. This was it. This was the perfect poop.
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