POO: SHOULD WE BE PAYING MORE ATTENTION TO IT?
BBC Focus - Science & Technology|May 2021
The trend for stool-gazing has health-conscious people staring into their toilet bowls. Before you don the rubber gloves, let’s flush out the truth from the pseudoscience
IAN TAYLOR
Stool-gazing may sound like something Gwyneth Paltrow dreamt up, but we’ve been doing it for centuries. A 1958 article in the British Medical Journal explained why. It said that “stools are like the skin, being readily visible, frequently examined, accessible to study and scrutiny, subject to loathsome and malodorous diseases.”

The ick factor, plus questions over its reliability as a diagnostic tool, mean it goes in and out of fashion. In the noughties, television presenter Gillian McKeith encouraged people to look at and even prod their poo on the show You Are What You Eat. Her qualifications were later questioned and the practice passed out of public consciousness once again. For most of us, gazing into the toilet bowl looking for answers was about as much use as reading tea leaves.

Now, stool-gazing is back, promoted by growing interest (both popular and scientific) in the human microbiome. Gut health is an active area of research, with new papers constantly being published, linking the bacteria that live in our guts to a wide spectrum of health issues, from dementia to depression, and heart disease to chronic inflammatory diseases.

In January, Prof Tim Spector published a paper in Nature Medicine that found you can pick out the ratios of good bugs and bad bugs in a person’s gut.

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