Can You Eat Your Own Poop?
We’ve all heard of people who claim that drinking your own urine has health benefits (vitamins, etc). Why not poop? Would there by any benefits to eating your own poop? Since it’s already been fully processed by our own bodies, how could there be any dangers? Might it even be GOOD for us?
Daniel Pomp, PhD, professor, UNC School of Global Public Health:
A big difference between urine and poop is that urine is sterile while poop is, well, you know, smelly and full of bacteria.
That said, those are the same bacteria that live in your gut and play many healthy roles in your body, so coprophagy is not necessarily unhealthy unless the poop originates from an unhealthy individual.
In fact, a recent article published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine showed that fecal transplants, where poop from one individual is infused into another individual’s intestines, have performed better than regular antibiotics in treating certain bacterial infections that cause severe diarrhea.
Parul Agarwal MD, assistant professor of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, University of Wisconsin:
Drinking your own urine and eating your own poop is perfectly safe. Urine is sterile, poop is not, but they are your own bugs. There are no positive effects of eating your own poop that I know of.
Lars Eckmann, PhD, professor of medicine at UCSD Medical School, Division of Gastroenterology:
Interesting question. In theory, ingesting your own stool should not be harmful, as long as it “clean” (i.e., not contaminated with stool from others, as might occur by contact in a toilet bowl, etc). Furthermore, there may be a theoretical minor health benefit in doing so. Bacteria in the colon can metabolize non-absorbed food materials (fiber) and generate useful nutrients (e.g. vitamins such as biotin, or sugars and amino acids from fiber and other undigested materials) that are only partly absorbed during initial production, the rest is excreted with the stool. Re-uptake of these nutrients by ingestion of stool would give a second opportunity for absorption in the gut. In fact, coprophagy in mice (a normal behavior) helps to extract extra energy from food compared to mice that are prevented from coprophagy.
However, any theoretical biological benefit is heavily outweighed by our strong aversion to coprophagy. The primary reason for that is probably the unconscious awareness that stool is often a source of infections in humans. Practically all food-borne infections are ultimately transmitted through the stool (fecal-oral), so we have very good reasons to stay away from stool as much as possible by hygienic measures.
Having said that, an increasing medical interest exists in “stool transplantation”, where normal, “healthy” stool gets ingested by patients who suffer from certain forms of diarrheal disease caused by use of antibiotics. The challenge is to standardize the stool preparations and formulate them in ways that are acceptable to patients.
THE VEREDICT: assuming you are a healthy person, eating your own poop would probably not harm you. Eating someone else’s poop could make you sick if they were unhealthy, but eating poop from the right person could cure your diarrheal disease. But generally speaking, you should stick to eating real food.
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