NCBI ROFL: What your poop looks like can tell you how long it’s been inside.

By ncbi rofl | February 25, 2013 12:00 pm

Editor’s note: after nearly 3 years of NCBI ROFL, we’ve decided to change things up a bit by beginning our posts with a few explanatory remarks. We hope that this isn’t off-putting to our loyal readers, and that it will make our posts more accessible to non-scientists. Enjoy!

Knowing how long it takes poop to travel through someone’s intestines can help doctors diagnose a number of health problems. But how can doctors tell what this “transit time” is? The scientists in this study investigated that question by having volunteers eat visible pellets and measuring how long it took them to come back out (perhaps you have conducted a similar observational study after eating corn). They then determined which characteristics of the poop correlated with “transit time”. Apparently, poop texture (“stool form”) is better than the weight (“output”) or frequency at predicting how long it’s been inside you.

Stool form scale as a useful guide to intestinal transit time.

“BACKGROUND: Stool form scales are a simple method of assessing intestinal transit rate but are not widely used in clinical practice or research, possibly because of the lack of evidence that they are responsive to changes in transit time. We set out to assess the responsiveness of the Bristol stool form scale to change in transit time. METHODS:Sixty-six volunteers had their whole-gut transit time (WGTT) measured with radiopaque marker pellets and their stools weighed, and they kept a diary of their stool form on a 7-point scale and of their defecatory frequency. WGTT was then altered with senna and loperamide, and the measurements were repeated. RESULTS:The base-line WGTT measurements correlated with defecatory frequency (r = 0.35, P = 0.005) and with stool output (r = -0.41, P = 0.001) but best with stool form (r = -0.54, P < 0.001). When the volunteers took senna (n = 44), the WGTT decreased, whereas defecatory frequency, stool form score, and stool output increased (all, P < 0.001). With loperamide (n = 43) all measurements changed in the opposite direction. Change in WGTT from base line correlated with change in defecatory frequency (r = 0.41, P < 0.001) and with change in stool output (n = -0.54, P < 0.001) but best with change in stool form (r = -0.65, P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS:This study has shown that a stool form scale can be used to monitor change in intestinal function. Such scales have utility in both clinical practice and research.”

Photo: Wikimedia

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: FECOM: a new artificial stool for evaluating defecation.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: On brassieres and poop.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: How to make pooping babies more appealing.

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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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