Why do I Poop?

Every year, over 20,000 people ask google the question: “do girls poop?”. No matter how many times you hear the urban legend that girls don’t poop because there are “poop pixies that take off their dookie to a far off land”1, and as much as it pains me to break the illusion of girls as delicate, sweet-smelling flowers that would never exude anything as unlady-like as poop, the truth is:  Everybody poops. Sorry guys.

Now that’s out the way , we can answer the next question: why do we poop?

Why we poop

You might think the answer to this question is obvious: what goes in must come out, right? Well, almost. After all, a lot of what we eat is converted to energy and building materials for our body. So why do we still poop? Why can’t we just convert everything we put into our bodies into useful materials?

The reason for this is that not all materials can be broken down by the body to be used. Although the body is an amazing machine that can interconvert lots of materials, it has its limits. It lacks certain enzymes and other tools to break down some molecules. One of the most well-known examples is fiber, an often-used aid in constipation exactly because it cannot be broken down and must therefore be eliminated in your faeces.

So is it just fiber that we can’t break down that makes its way to our poop? No – our poop is so much more than just fiber! Some statistics say that human excrement is made up of only about 8% fiber. What makes up the rest? Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of the stool is made up of water (about 75% of its bulk is water!), but that still leaves about 17% of stool materials that are unaccounted for. This includes stuff like:

  • Dead bacteria: Our gut is full of bacteria, some of which help our digestion, and they constantly reproduce and die as they go through their short lifespan. When these die, they pass into the stool. Dead bacteria release endotoxins called lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) which can be harmful to the body, so it’s important these are eliminated.
  • Live bacteria: Some live bacteria from the gut also make their way into the stool.
  • Old cells and old cell components: Like bacteria, the body’s cells also have lifespans. The gut-lining cells for example have a lifespan of about 3-4 days, after which they are shed to join the stool in its passage out the body. Remnants of other cells also find their way into the stool. The brown colour of poop is due to the breakdown products of old red blood cells that find their to the stool.
  • Mucus: Mucus is made by cells in the gut to act as a lubricant, helping to move the stool along. It also protects the lining of the gut from the friction as it passes, and from chemical interactions with chemicals in the stool. Some of this mucus finds its way into the stool. A stool that is well-coated with a thin layer of mucus explains the phenomenon of the “clean poop effect”, where there is nothing on the toilet paper after wiping.
  • Waste products made by the body: This is perhaps the most important component of poop which explains why it’s so important to have good bowel movements regularly. Let’s go into a bit more detail on this point:

What waste products do we need to eliminate?

Every day we are exposed to chemicals in our environment from pollution, additives in food, medications and more and many of these chemicals cannot be recycled into useful chemicals in the body.

In our food, some naturally occurring food chemicals like alcohol, caffeine and benzopyrene (a carcinogen from charcoal-broiled meat) also need to be detoxified and eliminated.

There are even naturally-made substances in the body that are not 100% re-used by the body, like certain hormones (e.g. oestrogen) and other chemicals we make (e.g. histamine, cholesterol).

There are two options for the fate of these materials: Either they are eliminated through routes like defecation (although other routes also exist like via urine, sweat and exhalation), or they stay in the body and accumulate, where they can potentially cause problems.  When they build up to detrimental levels in the body, these chemicals are often nicknamed “toxins” in the complementary health world.

Several conditions have been linked with unexcreted bowel contents and retained bowel-related toxins, including:

  • Faecal impaction from intestinal obstruction of unpooped poo. This is dangerous because there comes a point where the bowel is so full of waste that there’s nowhere for it to go, and the gut walls can rupture.
  • Dysbiosis , which is the overproliferation of unhelpful bacteria in the gut that can occur. Bacteria thrive on the stagnating bowel contents, and as they feed they make gaseous byproducts which can make you feel bloated and gassy.
  • Hormonal imbalances from unexcreted hormonal residues (from excess oestrogen and its side effects, to thyroid problems),
  • Cancer from unexcreted carcinogens, particularly bowel cancer (aka colorectal cancer).
  • Mood affectations : unexcreted waste materials that travel in the blood also find their way to the brain where they can have an effect on the nervous system and your mood.  Negative impacts on mood may also result from hormonal changes and from feeling generally sub par because of the accumulating wastes in your body.
  • The circulation of toxins in the blood can aggravate the immune system which detects unwanted substances in the blood and responds by fighting against these chemicals, creating constant low-grade inflammation in the body and using up energy which could be better spent used elsewhere. When the body is busy fighting such things, there are less resources to fight other problems, and immunity is therefore reduced. The result is a tendency to catch any bugs flying around.
    The side effects of low-grade inflammation can exhibit as tonsil stones, excess mucus production in the nose and throat, feverishness, and generally feeling a bit under the weather.
  • If not eliminated, some chemicals circulate in the blood and are deposited elsewhere, like in the skin, where they can increase the risk of acne.
  • And others… Murray & Pizzorno2 say that antigens and toxins from bowel bacteria have been found to be possibly related to the development of Diabetes mellitus, Meningitis, Myasthenia gravis, Thyroid disease, Ulcerative colitis and other diseases.

The bottom line on why we poop:

It’s essential in order to eliminate harmful chemicals, so that our systems are clean and healthy, and so that we feel light and full of vitality.


1. Urban Dictionary

2. Murray & Pizzorno. 1999. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Prima Publishing,U.S.; 2Rev Ed edition

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Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this article is accurate. However the information contained in this article is for educational purposes only. Suggestions contained in this article are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a health professional. All matters regarding health and supplementation require medical supervision and careful examination of contraindications and possible interactions. The author does not accept responsibility for the use of this information, nor shall the author be liable for any loss, injury or damage allegedly arising from any information or suggestions in this article.

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