The scoop on the poop emoji, how it relates to gut health and your next neighborhood cocktail party.

We must thank Google’s expansion into Japan for the poop emoji.  Takeshi Kishimoto and artists Ryan Germick and Susie Sahim had a role in bringing the emoji to the world in 2007.  At about the same time something quite different was happening in many labs around the world: the field of the human microbiome was coming into its own.  Now, more than ten years on, both the poop emoji and the field of the gut microbiome have never been stronger.  The connection is poop.


Poop is the most external manifestation of the gut microbiome—that’s serious talk.  Someday researchers will be able to sample small amounts of the digesting and fermenting food from the stomach, the small intestine, the large intestine and all the way to out the back-side to look at the different types of microbes and their metabolites along the digestive tract. Most studies today use collected poop.  Sometimes all you can get is poop.


There are over a dozen patents on just how best to collect poop.  These cover the ease of collection, clever designed origami ‘hats’ that sit on the toilet seat awaiting their precious load and such things as miniature trowels that can be used to sample the load and deliver it to a test tube filled with various preservatives so the activity of all those microbes stop as soon as possible.  The samples are frequently frozen and sent to testing labs all around the country.  What has poop wrought?  There are over fifty gut microbiome companies and more than half of these are, at least in part, focused on testing poop.  Breakthroughs are being worked on and we’ll all benefit.


We have a good friend studying baby poop and his company can’t get enough of it.  Seriously, it is in such demand they are unable to get as much as they’d like. Today there are several companies that collect poop from healthy donors, much like blood banks—and after everything tests out OK, the poop is processed and made available for delivery to humans via enema, called Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT).  FMT is saving the lives of people with C. difficile infections that don’t respond to antibiotics.  Now FMT is being tried for over a dozen diseases.  Poop is going to be big business and scientists are figuring out how to pick just a few bacteria from healthy poop and how to make them into new-age probiotics.  These will be poopless, per se, and will have just the bacteria needed to treat unmet medical needs.  You can bank on it.


But before that future brave new world of gentrified poop, we must learn how to eat healthy foods and how to avoid things that cause havoc in the gut microbiome.  We need a daily supply of a blend of prebiotics that feed the gut microbiome and lead to the production of short chain fatty acids.


How might we know if that microbiome is healthy?  For now, we have the Bristol Stool Chart.   It was developed by people at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in 1997 as a research tool for clinical studies for diseases of the gut, like IBS.  Now twenty years on and ten years since the poop emoji and the explosive interest in the gut microbiome, the planets are lining up.


Here’s the scoop, so to speak, your poop is the first and most obvious window to your health.  And you can be a leading expert on this subject at your next neighborhood cocktail party.  Did you see the movie, The Last Emperor?  Check it out by searching for “last emperor scene with smelling poop”.  The court wisemen knew even way back then that poop consistency and smell were important.  Was that movie-poop closer to a Type 1 or a Type 5 on the chart?


If you are eating 13 servings of fruits and vegetables (not counting potatoes, rice, white bread, corn—or catsup) every day, you’ve probably got healthy poop. Here are some pointers. Consistency has to do with what’s going on in your gut. If your microbiome is well fed, then there will be a reasonable balance of water—the so-called osmotic balance—of water coming into the colon and out of the colon so as to leave you with at least a stool of Type 3 or higher on the Bristol Chart.  Take a look please.  Is the toilet bowl clean after you flush?  It if isn’t, then you might not have that great Type 4 consistency.  More daily fruits and vegetables can move from lower numbers and constipation to higher numbers.


When you feed your microbiome prebiotics from fruits and vegetables, you expand the population of microbes in your gut.  These nutrients can be in the large intestine from an hour or two up to fifteen or twenty hours.  That whole time there is microbiome activity taking place along with the osmotic water balance.  With the microbes producing key metabolites, called short chain fatty acids, the lining of the gut is protected and the cells in the wall of the intestine release gut hormones to signal your brain controlling hunger, regulating blood sugar and preparing the immune system.


If you starve your microbiome by eating too many simple carbs and not enough prebiotics, the microbes can forage on the lining of your gut.  That’s not good and can lead to leaky gut and immune imbalances.  Sticky or abrasive constipated stool rubs against the inner delicate tissues of the large intestine.  Stools that are too loose prevent the full activity in the large intestine and there isn’t time for it to set up and form.


There is no better way for you to take care of your poop than to be sure your diet is rich in prebiotics.  If you do that then these other things, like immune support, healthy mucosal lining, short chain fatty acid production, blood sugar control, hunger control and much more will come easily.  How about printing out a copy of the Bristol Stool Chart!


That whole last emperor thing might have ended up differently and certainly so will your neighborhood party with your new knowledge of poop. We look forward to more poop-talks soon.


If you are not getting the 10 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, try BiomeBliss out.  It’s a next generation prebiotic optimized for short-chain fatty acid production and is a tasty easy addition to your daily routine.  BiomeBliss is available on Amazon.


Published on November 1, 2018