Why did the toilet paper not cross the road?

A little humour usually helps in our day to day business. Our affair with good old Mr Poop might be the last of conversation topics. Even so, it is hard to ignore that Mr Poop often gives some of the best clues of our state of health.

The best place to start is none other than from the bowl of elimination.

If we could tweak the famous saying, “What you see is what you get”, then the scenario at the toilet bowl could be likened to “What you see is what you are having (too much or too little)”.

Gastroenterology is the medical discipline focused on the digestive system and its disorders. Physicians who practise in this field are known as gastroenterologists.

A common tool that gastroenterologists use to group and make sense of our poops is the Bristol Stool Chart. You might have come across it when you close the door of your toilet cubicle in a hospital. The chart may look unappetising to many, so this post hopes to make it more likeable by using chocolate snacks as substitutes.

. Difficult and painful to pass out.

Type 1 Edit Separate hard lumps like nuts 
Type 2 Edit Lumpy look and feel. Usually looks like a sausage.
Type 3 Also have the look of a sausage or snake, but with noticeable cracks and crevices.
Type 4 chocolate If you see this, you have hit the sweet spot right! Smooth, soft but firm, the actual shape looks like an “S”, and it is usually easy to pass out.
Type 5 Small chocolate candy bar isolated Soft blobs with smooth edges. They are also easy to pass out.
Type 6 type6.jpg Soft and pasty that it could remind us of peanut butter.
Type 7  7787268-chocolate-shake-splash Watery, no solid pieces.

Images from 123RF.com

Type 1 and 2 are the consequences ofconstipation. If you see Types 3, 4 or 5, you will be glad to know these are in the region of Normal. The last 2 types,Types 6 and 7, are indicative of diarrhea. In the ideal world, you would want Mr Poop to like Type 4 – soft, S-shaped, and easy to pass.

What about the colours?

Now that we have seen the shapes and densities. What about the colours and what do they say?

You might have already noticed that the common brown colour in the above illustration. Yes, milk chocolate brown is considered the normal colour of poop. This is attributed to the production of bile in our liver.

Green  – When executed properly, it takes about 24 to 36 hours for food to pass through our entire digestive system. Poop that is greenish suggests that food has moved through your intestines too fast before ending up in brownish mass.

Yellow – Yellow poops tend to be greasy and foul-smelling. These points to excess fats elimination which could be traced back to problems with nutrients absorption. One possible suspect is Celiac Disease. Seeking medical attention is highly advisable, should the yellow stools persist.

Black – Black stools are usually means dried up blood in the poop. This is not a good sign as it could point to internal bleeding due to ulcer or cancer. Some medications or vitamins containing iron may result in black stools. If the conditions persist, it is advisable to seek medical attention.

Red or blood-stained – This is highly indicative of blood in the stools. One should see the doctor right away.

White or clay-looking – Light-coloured stools may be due to flow of bile in the digestive system. Certain medications may also cause the white or light colour. It is best to check with your doctor.

It is good to know that ….

The entire process of food digestion takes place in the gastrointestinal tract or GI in short. It starts from the mouth and connects through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, rectum and anus.

A myriad of acids and friendly bacteria are involved in the highly complex operation.  You can help by chewing well and thorough before letting the ball of food goes down your throat. This way, the bacteria in your body can do their job right to break down food pieces before they hit the porcelain bowl.

If you wolf your meals down without properly chewing, or eat a lot of particularly hard-to-digest food, you won’t be surprised to see it come out undigested at the other end.

It typically takes 24 to 36 hours for food to pass through your system. If you see anything earlier than that or you notice that your stools are floating, oily, or giving you cramps, it could be a bigger issue like an autoimmune disease like irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease. It could also be a problem with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Keeping Mr Poop happy. 

As crappy as it may sound, the comforting truth is knowing that the normal stools you see in the porcelain bowl means your systems is being well-maintained. Here are some tips that you can undertake to keep Mr Poop happy.

Water – Water plays a very significant role in our bodily functions. It keeps things hydrated, soft and moving. Without water, the body sucks everything out from the food we had taken, making things hard and painful. Stay hydrated with at least 1litre per day.

Fibre – Fibre is Mr Poop’s best friend. Rejected and not absorbed by the body, it is the friendly butler that gets buffs up Mr Poop to a good form to travel out of the system. Fibre can come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Probiotics – These are  bacteria that our body needs to break down food well and to run the digestion process smoothly. Other than in supplement forms, we can also derive probiotics from foods such as miso, plain yoghurt, tempeh, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Exercise – Exercise keeps blood flowing. This improved circulation helps with the absorption of nutrients and drainage of wastes. Exercise also helps reduce stress which could otherwise slow down or hinder our body functions including digestion.

As with all things, moderation is key in keeping our body in optimal form, including our digestive systems.

Last but not least, with this post, hopefully we can appreciate why that toilet paper got stuck at a crack. 


Richmand, Josh. Steth, Aish. What’s your poo telling you. Chronicle Books, 2007.

Richmand, Josh. Steth, Aish. Book of Poo, the a Spotter’s Guide, Ebury, 2007.

M. Sorokie, Alyce. Gut wisdom: Understanding and improving your digestive health. Career Press. 2008.


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