We need to talk about poop

There are certain things we don’t talk about publicly, but we know that they aren’t being talked about. Or maybe they’re occasionally mentioned, but only in vague terms or to certain people. You’re probably thinking about things like money and sex right now. Would you ask a stranger, or even a friend, how much they earn for a living? There are some friends I’d ask, but very few. Would you ask them which sexual positions they prefer? How about asking where their erogenous zones are?

But there are things we talk about even less than money or sex, and one of those is poop. We just don’t talk about it. But we need to.

My doctors over the years have asked me about my sex life. We don’t get into details, but they ask if I’m sexually active, if I’m care, if I need testing for STIs, etc. But they never asked about my poop. You’d think a primary care physician would ask at a checkup, “How often do you have bowel movements?” But no, not once.

I was an adult before I learned that I’m supposed to poop Every. Single. Day! Who knew? Not me. How would I know, when it’s something no one talks about? Around that time I also learned that loose stools aren’t normal. Sure, I felt lousy and pooped erratically, but I had no idea these were signalling a problem that needed to be addressed.

As it turns out, poop is important! The frequency, color, density, and shape of your stool says a lot about your current health. It’s something that I believe every doctor should ask about at an annual checkup, and certainly every gastroenterologist should ask these questions. Patients should be encouraged to keep a poop diary for just a few days each year, right before their checkups, so they can accurately answer these questions.

In my case, it would have been helpful if someone had realized much sooner than days without pooping and then a half dozen bouts of diarrhea in a day were, you know, a Bad Thing! And that’s just me. What about the thousands of other cases out there? I know some of you have had gastrointestinal problems. How long did it take for someone to realize there was a problem? Would they have figured it out sooner if they’d been asking you about your poop?

Of course, the problem isn’t just the lack of discussion at medical appointments. We don’t talk about it in general. It’s not like I ask a friend about their poop habits or tell them about mine. There’s no common knowledge here. There’s a running joke on The Big Bang Theory about Sheldon scheduling his daily bowel movement, and how he finds it very odd that others have bowel movements whenever the urge strikes them, without any schedule at all. Ok, maybe Sheldon’s approach is unusual, but at least he makes sure he has a daily, healthy bowel movement and he isn’t afraid to talk about it. The part I find interesting is how off-putting it is for everyone else when he discusses it. Sure, maybe it isn’t something to bring up at dinnertime, but aside from that, what’s so bad about it?

There’s less embarrassment around a bloody nose, burping, hiccuping, crying, peeing…. all things that involve natural bodily processes and/or fluids. Why is that? Why is it that someone can say, “I’m going to pee,” or “I need to take a whiz,” and that’s ok? But the moment someone says “I need to go poop,” or “I need to take a dump,” it’s considered inappropriate? Hell, some people try not to poop at their date’s house for the first several months of dating!

I think our society has gone way overboard on its aversion to any discussion whatsoever of poop. It’s time for that to change. I say, let’s discuss pooping just like any other bodily process. I highly doubt it will hurt anyone, but it may just help a whole lot of people.

What do you think?

4 Responses to We need to talk about poop

  1. I’m old fashioned enough to think discussing bowel movements is probably not the best subject for a party. Having said that, I tend to agree that it’s not a subject people should shy away from, especially during doctor’s visits. Maybe my UC would have been diagnosed sooner if I hadn’t just assumed that “some bleeding” was normal and had discussed it either with a doctor or with a family member.

  2. I totally agree. We need to talk about poop more! There are so many topics that are off limits which for the sake of health and stress it would be so much better if we were all more open. I love your story about Sheldon that’s so funny and I’m with you on being an adult by the time I learnt that daily was normal!

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