gotta take a poop?

In scatology (“scat” for short), defecation or releasing poo is the final act in the digestive process. The release of a solid, semi-solid or liquid waste product called feces is the expelled by the body through the anus.

There is no singular term for feces. However, based on its etymological origins, the term was derived from the Latin word faex (pronounced as fece), which means “dregs”. There are many terms related to feces and some of them (i.e. shit and crap) are considered profanity and often used in cussing or cursing. Some are medical terms for feces (i.e. stool and excrement). A newborn baby’s first poo is called mevonium or merconium. On the other hand, words such as dung, turd, number two, poo, poop, dump and doo doo are considered colloquialisms or slang for feces.

The poo cycle is a combination of voluntary and involuntary processes done with force. The rectal ampulla (ampulla recti) stores the feces to be released. The rectal walls will expand as more feces are deposited. The increase will then cause the stretch receptors located in the rectal walls (nervous system) that will trigger a contraction of the rectal muscles. Then the internal anal sphincter will relax, giving a signal to the brain urging to poo and then, the external sphincter and the skeletal muscle with contract, initiating the first release of poo.

Releasing poo involves taking deep breaths while trying to expel air through a closed glottis known as the Valsalva maneuver. The diaphragm, abdominal muscles, chest muscles and pelvic diaphragm will contract and put pressure on the digestive tract to release poo. There is an interval time between the one poo released to the next.

Once the signal initiating the urge to poo is sent to the brain, the final phase of releasing poo will begin. The peristaltic waves will be shortened and contracted by the rectum, forcing poo all the way through the anal canal. The anal sphincters (both internal and external) together with the puborectalis muscle will allow the feces to pass by, pulling the anus up over the exiting poo through contracting actions.

During the release of poo, blood pressure rises. The blood pumped by the heart decreases as a reflex response during the release of feces. There are some cases wherein heart attack or aneurysm occurs during pooping because of the rise in blood pressure, prompting blood vessels to rupture and create blood clots. Stopping the Valsalva maneuver, and then quickly standing up to leave the toilet can cause the blood pressure to fall and would result to fainting.
The toilet training process has been taught to children at a young age. Since then, releasing of urine after poo is a common occurrence because the anal and urethral sphincters can work only together and not individually. This is also the reason why flatulence accompanies urination at times.

The position adapted during pooping can be culturally dependent. The squatting position is the natural instinctive method adapted by primates (including human) when they poo. There are squat toilets available in some countries, apparently still in use in most African countries and also in Asia. On the other hand, because of innovation in plumbing, seating-position toilets have been used almost everywhere. According to the standard textbook in gastroenterology, the ideal position to poo is the squatting position. It is when the thighs flexed upon the abdomen and the abdominal cavity is greatly made smaller and the intra-abdominal pressure is increased. This position encourages easily release of poo.

When the urge to poo is not acted upon, feces will return to the colon by way of the rectum and water will be absorbed in reverse peristalsis. This will temporarily reduce the pressure and stretching of the rectum. The additional feces will be stored together with the feces already stored in the colon and will only be released when the next bowel movement occurs, pushing the mass of poo in a descending motion. If pooping is delayed, the feces might harden and autolyze (the destruction of cell through enzymes) that will result to constipation later on.

Proper hygiene must always be considered before, during and after pooping. Toilet paper and other similar paper products can be used to clean the anus and buttocks after defecating, which started in China before it became widespread in Western culture. However, cleaning remaining poo must be meticulously done or else, bacterial infection might happen.

In some cultures, water is used to clean the anal area. Bidet (a plumbing fixture that is low-mounted) and lota (small, round water vessel) are available in some countries. Washlets are popular toilet fixtures in Japan and South Korea. They are designed to wash the poo or urine after every expulsion.

In some other cultures, poo washed off using rags, sponges, corn cobs, leaves (including seaweed) or sticks. Roman anal cleansing uses sponges and sticks. It is done by soaking the sick in water and stuck through the hole in front of the toilet to clean the anus and buttocks of remaining poo. Rags and washcloths used to clean the anus are habitually washed just like cloth diapers for babies before it can be used again. In olden times, people in Japan use a wooden skewer called “chuugi” to clean the anus from poo after defecating.
Like any body functionality, people can experience poo problems. Going to the toilet can be quite a chose when taking a poo. In most cases, it can either be too much poo or no poo coming out at all.

People suffering from constipation could be treated by taking laxatives or having an enema. Enema, also known as bowel irrigation, is a procedure done for those having difficulties releasing their poo without experiencing pain. It is done by injecting liquids through the rectum using a rectal bulb syringe or an enema device available in hospitals.

For those suffering from diarrhea, may be caused by virus, pectin and potassium deficient, bacterial infection, parasitic infection (Giardia) and food allergies. Treatment may include taking medication such as loperamide and eating food like apples, bananas, wheat bread and yoghurt are recommended to solidify poo.

Proper diet and hygiene can ensure a healthy poo experience.

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