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a shitty question
July 24, 2008 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Poop question about normalcy and bowel movements [possibly disgusting]

First, I realize this is sensitive issue, but any feedback would be appreciated (although that might be difficult since responses can't be anonymous).

First, some background. I lived the first 27 years of my life assuming that pooping would take 20-30 minutes and afterwards my butt would be dirty. We're talking really dirty. It would take maybe 1-3 minutes of wiping to clean things up. This might not sound terrible, but the point was that I could _always_ wipe more. There was no point at which the toilet paper would be completely clean. I hated this situation, but I assumed everyone lived like this and I was too embarrassed to mention it to anyone. However, I was more open with my second girlfriend .The subject was broached when I asked her eating habits after noticing (what I thought were) incredibly short bathroom trips. This led to me watching my diet more carefully and finally realizing that I was lactose intolerant. I also discovered the wonders of psyllium husk. Since then pooping has gone from something I dreaded to something I look forward to and actually enjoy. I feel "empty" when I'm done. And I usually wipe completely cleanly (I mean I wipe once to make sure, but most of the time it's completely clean). I'm also usually in the bathroom for less than five minutes, as opposed to a half hour. Occasionally things won't work this well, but that's an abberation.

Now there seem to be two possibilities. One is that this story is unique and most people are not walking around with mudbutt, assuming they don't shower immediately after a dirty poop. I hope this is the case. The other is that many people are living how I used to live. I realize there are obviously personal variations, but I wonder what you experience personally or what you believe is normal or common.

To clarify: When I say a poop is "complete", I mean I feel "empty" and done afterwards and I rarely have to wipe more than once or twice.
When I say a poop is "incomplete", I mean I could keep wiping forever and the toilet paper would still be dirty (from the anus, not the cheeks). Wiping at this point is mainly to get poop off your ass while acknowledging that nothing can really be done about the poop that keeps coming out. I suppose showering would be one solution to this.

I've noticed a few things that have led me to believe a large amount of people are walking around with mudbutt.

1) The prevalence of bathroom reading materials. In movies and on TV people are always reading in the bathroom. I can't imagine having the time to read anything these days, although before my poop habits changed I could probably have read a novel in a sitting. Assuming length of time sitting corresponds with dirty/"incomplete" poops (does it?), this seems to suggest that people who find reading in the bathroom normal are more likely to have dirty butts.

2) Sheryl Crow recently said that one or two squares of toilet paper should be sufficient. This led to a wave of ridicule (ie, Jay Leno: "Remind me not to shake her hand!"). But ridiculing her seems to suggest that people use way more than one or two squares, which should not be the case if their poops are "complete".

3) I've spoken to women (obviously I don't think all women are the same) who have talked about being mortified about farting in public bathrooms. Men's bathrooms seem to smell much more and women seem to not take as long when pooping. These are gross generalizations, but I wonder if length of time in the bathroom and smell correspond with "incomplete" shits and on average, men have mudbutt more often than women.

4) I recently mentioned an "invisible shit" I had to a friend since it was such a rare occurance. By "invisible shit" I meant that I had taken a poop, but it has disappeared into the bowl and when I looked down, I could see nothing in the toilet. He thought I was talking about not having to wipe, where an "invisible shit" meant that nothing was on the toilet paper after pooping. Since he found this to be an extremely rare occurance, that suggests that he often has "incomplete" poops.

I'd be interested if complete/incomplete was actually something other people experienced or just something I made up, and what other people's normal habits are.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
2) Sheryl Crow recently said that one or two squares of toilet paper should be sufficient. This led to a wave of ridicule (ie, Jay Leno: "Remind me not to shake her hand!"). But ridiculing her seems to suggest that people use way more than one or two squares, which should not be the case if their poops are "complete".

Attribute this instead to people being so germ- and shit-phobic that they use literal fistfuls of paper, so to make the odds of shit/hand contact approach zero. It's very common for people to unwind 6 or 7 squares at once, when far less would suffice. I don't think it's based on any real need for that much-- just people being decadent and overcautious.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:07 AM on July 24, 2008


These are gross generalizations, but I wonder if length of time in the bathroom and smell correspond with "incomplete" shits and on average, men have mudbutt more often than women.

Maybe men are more comfortable pooping in public bathrooms.

Certainly can't speak for all women, but I try to avoid going number two in public bathrooms unless I absolutely have to, and it doesn't have anything to do with "complete" vs "incomplete". Perhaps I'm just shy.
posted by lullaby at 7:19 AM on July 24, 2008


Hell I'll bite, no shame here

Assuming length of time sitting corresponds with dirty/"incomplete" poops (does it?), this seems to suggest that people who find reading in the bathroom normal are more likely to have dirty butts.

Definitely not the case. I have sometimes sat on the toilet for a half hour reading and I was "done" after the first 5 minutes. In fact I can think of times where I wasn't even pooping, so that assumption is definitely inaccurate. Most of the time this stems from me just "passing the few short minutes" by picking up something to read and then getting immersed in it and forgetting I've been on the toilet for a half hour.

But ridiculing her seems to suggest that people use way more than one or two squares, which should not be the case if their poops are "complete".

I'm the kind of guy that grabs more than 2 squares on the first pull, and I probably use like 5-8 sheets total. Then again when it comes to ass-wiping I feel like conserving the forest plays a very secondary role so being frugal is not exactly high priority on my mind. This doesn't mean that I spend 30 minutes wiping or have mudbutt, it just means I'd be very surprised to find people use 2 squares of TP and be complete. Quality plays a big role here too. If it's 1 ply goverment TP that you can practically see through then you'll use plenty more than if the TP could double as a bedtime quilt.

I wonder if length of time in the bathroom and smell correspond with "incomplete" shits and on average, men have mudbutt more often than women.

My wife doesn't like using public restrooms and only going #1 in there if she can help it. Might be a gross generalization but I would imagine there is a large majority of women that feel the same way. Men probably don't give a damn. However this could also be explained by differences in diet between genders.

Basically I think we need to throw out the idea that you're going to wipe once and be done with it. I think most people are probably used to wiping 2 or 3 times. However that doesn't make it "incomplete" in so much as it doesn't really compare to the "mudbutt wiping 30 minutes and still not pulling a clean tissue" type of situation. Glad to hear you figured out what the issue with yours was, but I doubt this is a very common occurrence.
posted by genial at 7:23 AM on July 24, 2008


Actually, there are so many components to this...diet issues, hydration issues, etc.

If a person does not eat enough fiber, or eats too big a proportion of the wrong foods, muddbutt can occur. Drinking enough water is also important...as for reading material in the bathroom, sometimes when one is constipated it helps to have something to read while waiting for bowel muscles to relax and do their thing. Conversely sometimes when one's "stomach is torn up" it helps to have something to read as, well, there's a lot of waste to process and you need to be in there awhile to complete the deal.
posted by konolia at 7:23 AM on July 24, 2008


Seconding lullaby.

Also, to be more personal, the consistency of my B.M.'s changes depending on my diet and water consumption. I have experienced most of the types of B.M.'s that you describe.
posted by muddgirl at 7:24 AM on July 24, 2008


PS-I have -rarely-had the issues that the OP describes. It's very annoying and it does encourage me to be more careful with diet, and again, hydration.
posted by konolia at 7:25 AM on July 24, 2008


Some of the theories (2-4) are rather a stretch.

But yeah, a lot of people have crap diets or just eat too much fat and therefore have to spend more time on the toilet.

There's also the social convention that since it's rude to talk to the person trying to do their business in the bathroom, it's guaranteed hassle-free time. This usually translates into the cliché of the dad heading to the bathroom with the newspaper for some peace and quiet and a long leisurely poop.
posted by desuetude at 7:27 AM on July 24, 2008


Congratulations! You are fortunate to have found your way to fecal enlightenment. It's true that a fiber-rich (and well-hydrated!) diet can help make pooping a short, sweet, and sanitary experience. The process really isn't as simple as that, though, because many other factors are at play, and the individual idiosyncracies of each person's system cannot be discounted.

I can speak from my own experience as a woman with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Diet is not the only factor involved; anxiety, hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle, uterine cramping, and sometimes unknown factors can influence the digestive tract with painful and sub-ideal results, even with the most optimized fiber and hydration regimen in place. Sometimes the system is simply capricious. Diet and fiber maintenance seem to minimize problematic episodes, but do not eliminate (hah!) them altogether.

Peristalsis fills up your colon with matter, which gives you the impulse to 'go', you go, and that's it. You snap one off and you're done. For some people, the peristalsis is slow, and for some people it churns overzealously, passing stuff through that isn't anywhere near ready for prime-time. And then the texture is all wrong. Sometimes the texture is wrong because fat is part of the mix, or because they ate strawberries and the seeds always make their guts go haywire. Maybe some people's colons are simply not as efficient as others', just as some people are nearsighted or have terrible balance. I have read that the "I'm not done yet" feeling - your 'incomplete' - is common to IBS. Maybe you have IBS and are managing it with diet changes.

Enjoy your shrink-wrapped, ten-second poopage, and try to not judge the rest of us too harshly. We're doing the best we can with the equipment we've got, and believe me, there are plenty of other more comfortable places we'd rather be curling up with a good book.
posted by Lou Stuells at 7:33 AM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm in and out in under 5 minutes. If I'm not growing a tail after 30 seconds, I don't have to go.
posted by sanka at 7:37 AM on July 24, 2008


1. I've noticed this seems more common in men than women, I never understood it. I go in to the bathroom, I poop, wipe, wash hands and leave. Definitely no time for reading.

2. She was joking. How much a 'normal' person needs to use depends on the size and thickness of the sheet as well as the consistency of the bowel movement and to some extent, the size of your butt ;) Yes, people do use more than they need, they'd rather use extra loo roll than risk getting shit on their hands.

3. I don't think smell has anything to do with completeness of the bowel movements. I find men's bathrooms smell more because of urine, not farts or poo - but maybe your mensrooms are different

4. I don't see how someone thinking not having to wipe after taking a poo is rare means they have 'incomplete' poops.

By the sounds of it you have very hard, dry stools and you're assuming everyone else does too. This is not the case, just because someone needs to wipe doesn't mean they didn't poo properly. Your 20-30 minute sessions were incomplete because your stool was too hard/dry to come out fully, you've now progressed to dry enough to come out fully leaving minimal trace on your anus. I'd guess you're 2 or 3 on the Bristol Stool Scale. My poops are "complete" but I still need to wipe. I eat plenty of fibre and drink a lot of water so my bowel movements are soft and pass easily <2 minutes for a complete toilet trip, including hand washing, they're complete but the softness does leave some traces that need wiping. I have experienced the 'incomplete' poop - when I was on some medication that cause constipation and stools hard enough to leave no trace for wipage, and I definitely prefer having a soft stool and needing to wipe than dropping a brick.
posted by missmagenta at 7:45 AM on July 24, 2008


It would take maybe 1-3 minutes of wiping to clean things up. This might not sound terrible, but the point was that I could _always_ wipe more. There was no point at which the toilet paper would be completely clean.

My toileting experience is similar to yours. Like you, I have always been curious about why the poop just keeps coming and coming ("incomplete"). My conclusion, after some experimentation, is that firm wiping forces out that additional poop, but if you wipe gently the additional poop will not be forced out. In other words, you can wipe yourself clean as long as you're not wiping so forcefully that additional poop is forced out. I'd welcome comments on whether this theory is reasonably consistent with actual human anatomy.

Also, obviously, wiping with something moist will clean you faster, and avoid irritation.

Having said all that, sometimes I'm "complete" (little firm balls of poop, little wiping required) and I agree that that's the gold standard.

What does psyllium do for you? That's a laxative and I would have thought that it would make your poops softer and more "incomplete."

I've favorited this post and I hope you get lots of comments.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:47 AM on July 24, 2008


Judging from things-I've-seen-that-I-can't-unsee and laundry I've done, I think men just aren't as careful when they wipe.
posted by desjardins at 7:52 AM on July 24, 2008


As a girl, I think our public bathrooms are generally cleaner because we demand it to be, and because we spend so much more time there. Guys typically get up, do their thing, wash quickly and go. Girls (stereotypically) go in groups, gossip while sitting on the can (occasionally, and I *hate* this ), then wash, fix their hair and make up, chatting the whole while, gossip a little more, then finally leave. Obviously, if the place is disgusting, this isn't going to happen as much.

That, I also try to #2 in public either. Sometimes it takes 2 minutes, sometimes 10, sometimes it's messier than others, but I typically can always get clean. If i'm in there with reading material for longer than that, it's because it's the only place I can get some peace and quiet. (Growing up, I almost exclusively did all my reading in the bathroom, because it was the one place I wouldn't get bugged by my brother or nagged to do something by my parents.)

"Invisible shits" puzzle me too. I mean, I know I went -- where'd it go? I know it's there somewhere... I guess their frequency also depends on individual toilets, as well.
posted by cgg at 8:04 AM on July 24, 2008


Yeah, for me it's all diet. When I pay attention to my diet and eat high fiber, sometimes adding psyllium husk, I am quick comfortable, and clean. That's not to say I don't linger in the john, it's an excellent place to read. When I relax my diet my bathroom trips range anywhere from normal to frustratingly futile attempts to finish and clean up. Hydration and salt intake also play a role, as does the volume of food eaten. I have a 'friend' who made some homemade protein bars, which weren't that tasty, but not bad enough to throw out. In an effort to hurry up and be rid of them 'he' just ate them almost exclusively for a few days. The nutrient/volume ratio of those bars was so high that little happened in the bathroom for a time, and then a whole lot happened all at once. 'He' will never eat like that again.

It's just one more reason to eat properly.
posted by Science! at 8:04 AM on July 24, 2008


Previously, related.
posted by plinth at 8:04 AM on July 24, 2008


Sigh... I try *not* to do #2 in public. Pretty please can we edit our posts...? I'm asking nicely...
posted by cgg at 8:05 AM on July 24, 2008


Women are generally encouraged to be tidy and clean and polite and nice-smelling, and not give the impression that they poop or fart or do other gross things like sweat or grow body hair or menstruate. I would suggest that the perceived cleanliness of women's bathrooms (and, correspondingly, turds) has more to do with socialization than the quality of their dookie.

Women are also probably more likely to be restricting their calorie/fat/carb intake, which can result in smaller and sometimes tidier poops. I have fewer and smaller bowel movements if I'm on a diet.

I've taken a lot of dumps in a lot of women's restrooms, and some of those restrooms, even the ones in nice corporate offices, are pretty gross.

I don't take a particularly long time to poop, but if there's reading material in the bathroom I can get sidetracked and hang out on the toilet a long time after I've finished my business. It's more of a nice break than anything else, usually.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:26 AM on July 24, 2008


Judging from things-I've-seen-that-I-can't-unsee and laundry I've done, I think men just aren't as careful when they wipe.

Agree. Greater amount and coarseness of hair there is a contributing factor, though.
posted by desuetude at 8:28 AM on July 24, 2008


I am in awe of this post and the ensuing discussion. The only way it could be better is if this same dialogue were being conducted in person. Face to face, or in neighboring stalls.

The OP has successfully changed diets, dumped mudbutt, and is looking to associate all manner of ills with mudbutts walking among us: bathroom reading, wiping and Leno wisecracks, women tooting, and depth charges. Not so fast. I think the most that can be said is that bad diets is one of many causes of circumstances in which people have more time to read, wipe more, etc. I have not heard of these husks, but the post is just like that of many other dietary zealots; it's awesome that this helped you, but it's not the key for everyone, nor can all of society be changed if everyone did likewise.

Personally, I don't mind a little more variety, just like I wouldn't like to live in the same climate year-round. As expressed in the famous haiku:

Poop has four seasons
That charm unexpectedly
Monsoon, I could skip.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:23 AM on July 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


When it comes to chopping the head off the chocolate turkey, there are just so many factors involved (diet, hydration, time since last poop, etc) that I don't take the prevalence of bathroom reading as a sign that the average pooptime is long, but that people are planning for the worst. While there may not be time for that Uncle John's Bathroom Reader 9/10 times you go, you'll be really thankful for it that one in ten time you're recovering from a discount Indian buffet.

I too strive for the perfect poop and by perfection, I mean the low-wipe, empty feeling the OP achieves with enviable regularity. Time really doesn't enter in to it. That wonderful "Holy crap, I bet my pants fit better" moment can come after one giant shotgun of effort or after dealing with multiple John the Baptists where one movement presages a much better, almost messianic one. That feeling of fullness could also just be gas, so a quick MacBeth Poop (full of sound and fury, signifying nothing) may also fit the bill. The worst are the Cappuccinos which are as liquidy and foamy as you might imagine and probably the fault of too much PBR.

As for toilet paper use, I am a horrible wastrel.

And people do talk about poop person to person. You know you've found the love of your life when you can come home after a long day of work and tell your SO that you just had the best shit ever and instead of being disgusted, they are happy for you.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:44 AM on July 24, 2008 [10 favorites]


The range of normal BMs three times a day to every three days, as I've read. So it depends on the person, diet, size, etc. But if it takes you 20 minutes to finish and it is rather liquid and messy, maybe a visit with the doc isn't a bad idea.

In extreme cases (but more often than you'd think), this can be a symptom of Crohn's disease or colitis.

Luckily, there are medications that can help with these conditions. In extreme cases, an ostomy is necessary. Since these conditions also put you at a high risk for colon cancer, it's a good idea to see a doc. It's entirely curable if it's caught early, but regular preventive care is key.

Studies show that men wait a long time to see a physician or take action when something is wrong (more so than women do), so maybe the men who take a long time are just trying to "tough it out" when they have a more serious issue.

I don't mean to be alarmist, but I've seen a number of friends suffer (and one die) from something that could be easily managed by a few doctor visits. (My physician boyfriend noted that I have an unusually large number of friends with Crohn's or colitis. I've even guessed it before some of them told me, based on my experience.)
posted by cherie72 at 10:10 AM on July 24, 2008


Same situation here. The GF suggested I was lactose intolerant after her paying attention to my eating habits coupled with washroom habits. Now my life is probably 100% better. :-)
posted by shepd at 10:23 AM on July 24, 2008


After reading the archives of dooce, I've become hyper-aware of my own pooping habits. Thankfully, I've never had the chronic constipation that she deals with.

I'm now also thankful that I haven't had the mud-butt that you suffered from!

Normally, pooping takes less than five minutes, and I need to wipe twice at most to get the area clean. If I'm not feeling well, or I've eaten something odd, there are variations involving looser stools and more wiping. These variations also involve gas-related stomach pain and thankfully don't happen very often.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:25 AM on July 24, 2008


Lou Stuells: eponysterical!

desjardin: hairy arses make life difficult.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:08 PM on July 24, 2008


seriously. how could I not respond?
posted by Lou Stuells at 3:39 PM on July 24, 2008


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