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What are the Contents of Human Feces?

A relatively well-known book is entitled Everyone Poops. The book attempts to make the point that humans, as well as mammals and other types of animals, defecate.

While it is true that “everyone poops,” a good many people do now know the contents of human feces. This lack of knowledge is actually quite understandable inasmuch as feces are not something pleasant to contemplate.

With that said, having a basic understanding of the contents of human feces can be helpful. By gaining a basic understanding of the contents of human feces, a person is in a better position to understand symptoms of possible health conditions or diseases. In addition, basic information about human feces is helpful in protecting an individual from certain types of potentially dangerous pathogens.

Elements of Human Feces in a Healthy Person

There are five primary elements that comprise human feces in a generally healthy individual. These are:

  • Water
  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fiber

Water

All water consumed by an individual ultimately is absorbed in the small and large intestines. The largest element in human feces is water. 65 to 85 percent of human stools are water. If a person is suffering from diarrhea, the feces contain more than 85 percent water.

Protein

Most protein from food is digested within the small intensive and converted into amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed into a person’s blood. Some remnants of proteins end up in human feces.

Fat

95 percent of all fat that a person consumes is absorbed in the small intestines. Traces of fat are found in human feces. A healthy person’s stools do not have more than 6 percent fat. If human feces have more than 6 percent fat, the condition is considered abnormal and a person may be diagnoses as having steatorrhea.

Carbohydrates

Only a very small amount of carbohydrates should end up in human feces. The total amount of undigested carbohydrates in a person stool should be under half of a percent. With that said, most of those residual carbohydrates in human feces should be lactose. All other simple and complex carbohydrates should have been nearly completely absorbed in the small intestines.

Fiber

Finally, a primary element of human feces is fiber. With a healthy, high fiber diet, human feces are comprised of about 10 to 15 percent fiber. If a person does not consume enough fiber, feces may consist of only 5 percent fiber. Fiber is not digestible. It serves to eliminate other food waste from the body.

Stool samples are taken by physicians as a means of determining if a person is afflicted with some type of disease of condition. An imbalance among these primary elements of human feces can be indicative of some type of disease, illness, or condition. 

Dangerous Pathogens in Human Feces

Human feces are filled with bacteria. In fact, the average bowel movement will contain more bacteria than there have been human beings inhabiting the Earth since the dawn of time, according to the National Institutes of Health. The vast majority of this bacteria are not harmful.

Pathogens that potentially can be found in human feces are placed in four categories:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Protozoa
  • Worms

The most common types of potentially harmful pathogens that can be found in human feces are:

  • Ascaris (worm)
  • Cryptosporidium (protozoa)
  • Entamoeba coli (protozoa)
  • Escherichia coli (protozoa)
  • Giardia lamblia (worm)
  • Hepatitis A (virus)
  • Salmonella (bacteria)
  • Shigella (bacteria)
  • Streptococcus (bacteria)
  • Vibrio cholerae (bacteria)

These pathogens can infect a person who has direct contact with human feces. In addition, some of these pathogens can contaminate food or beverages. A person can become infected by pathogens in this type of situation if the consume a contaminated food item. (Salmonella is a prime example of a type of pathogen found in human feces that can end up in food or beverages, resulting in the infection of another individual.)

Human Feces are a Biohazard

Human feces are classified as a biohazard. What this means is that unprotected contact with human feces exposes a person to the risk of being infected by viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and worms.

Basic personal protective equipment that needs to be utilized when cleaning up human feces is:

  • Gloves
  • Mask
  • Apron or smock
  • Goggles

Having a better understanding of what is contained in human feces is a vital step in protecting overall health, wellness, and safety. In the end, the content of human feces can be an indicator of a health issue. In addition, avoiding contact with human feces can be imperative when it comes to becoming infected by some sort of dangerous pathogen.

Photo Courtesy of Holland And Green Architectural Design.