In the medical arena, a considerable amount of discussion occurs regarding human feces. The state of a person’s feces can be indicative of if that individual is afflicted with some type of malady or disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. The shape, color, presence of blood, and other factors can provide physicians with basic information about the possibility for some sort of illness. An analysis of the balance of the contents of human feces also come into play when considering health issues, including the spread of disease.
Why do We Need to be Concerned About the Contents of Human Feces?
As mentioned, there are personal health reasons why people need to be concerned about the contents of human feces. In addition, there are public health reasons why individuals from all walks of like need to have an understanding of the contents of human feces.
A primary reason why everyone needs to have a basic understanding of the contents of human feces is because of the risk of exposure to these materials in an unprotected setting. For example, in the greater Los Angeles area, between 50,000 and 60,000 people in the community are homeless, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. A significant percentage of these people live on the streets, including in what are known as homeless encampments.
When homeless individuals are encamped in this manner, they oftentimes have no appropriate place to urinate or defecate. Thus, they are left relieving themselves of these wastes in what technically is a public setting, or at least at a location to which the public at large can be exposed.
As will be discussed in a moment, human feces contain both naturally occurring harmless substances but they can also contain what are known as pathogens, which can be dangerous, even life-threatening.
Basic Elements of “Normal” Feces
When a person is healthy, his or her feces are comprised of five components:
The bulk of a healthy person’s feces is water. Indeed, “heathy feces” are between 65 to 85 percent water. If the percentage rises above 85, a person suffers diarrhea. If the water content falls below 65, he or she may be afflicted with constipation.
The vast majority of protein a person consumes is digested and converted into amino acids. These amino acids are absorbed into the blood. A small amount of protein remnants ends up in feces.
Most fat consumed is absorbed through the small intestines. A small amount ends up in feces. A healthy person has no more than 6 percent fat in his or her feces.
There will be a trace amount of carbohydrates in human feces. A healthy person should have no more than less than a half of a percent of carbohydrates in their feces. The vast majority of these carbs should be in the form of lactose.
A primary component of human feces is fiber. Ideally, a person’s feces should be between 10 to 15 percent fiber.
Bristol Stool Scale
The content of feces contributes to the shape of that type of human stool. A mechanism utilized to examine the shape of feces is the Bristol Stool Scale.
The Bristol Stool enumerates seven types of human stool:
- Separate, hard lumps of stool that are hard to pass
- Sausage-shaped and lumpy stool
- Sausage-shaped with cracks on the surface
- Snake-like, soft and smooth
- Soft blobs with clear-cut edges
- Fluffy pieces, mushy and with ragged edges
- Watery, entirely liquid
Types 3 and 4 are the optimal types of stool. Type 4 is considered the best type of stool, because it is easiest to pass. Types 1 and 2 are indicative of constipation. Types 5, 6, and 7 are indicative of diarrhea.
Stool in the Type 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 categories can be indicative of a health issue of some nature.
Harmful Pathogens and Human Stool
Harmful pathogens that potentially can be found in human feces are placed into four categories:
Within these categories, the most common types of pathogens in human feces that can pose a threat to the general public 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)
The potential dangers that exist in human stool underscore the need to protect the public from exposure to raw feces. For example, the political debate over where homeless individuals congregate aside, the thorough homeless encampment waste remediation is an important aspect of protecting public health. This includes not only the health of the general public but of the homeless population residing in encampments as well.