How was Stonehenge built? What are the Easter Island head statues? Why do some poops float while others sink to the bottom of the bowl?
These are just a few of the big questions we face in life.
It’s one of the many mysteries of toilet time, and it’s true that it kept us awake at night.
Well, now scientists have taken a fresh look at an old study, which appears to offer some insight.
According to research from University of Minnesota Hospitals, whether your poo is a “floater” or a “swimmer” depends on the types of bacteria in your gut and how much gas they produce.
Published in 1972, the study looked at the wastes of 13 people and found that they all sank when the gas inside was removed by increased pressurization, even though they had a high fat content.
At the time, gastroenterologist Michael Levitt and his student William Duane were inspired to look into the matter because Mr. Duane’s poop was still floating around.
“About two hours after our discussion, he passed a stool, we put it in a flask, and pressurized the flask and watched the stool sink, demonstrating that the stool was floating because of its gas content,” Ms. .Levitt.
They thought that this gas came from intestinal bacteria that had incorporated into the feces, but were never able to confirm their suspicions.
Now, Dr Nagarajan Kannan of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and his colleagues have confirmed that hunch, New Scientist has reported.
They noticed that mice bred to have no gut bacteria — known as germ-free mice — still produce sinkers, while nearly half of standard mice produce floaters.
“Now there is no confusion as to what causes stool to float, it is gas from gut microbes, not swallowed air or other sources,” Dr. Kannan said.
“Further analysis of the mouse floaters revealed that they contained several gas-producing bacteria, including Bacteroides ovatus and Bacteroides uniformis, which are known to increase methane production and the frequency of flatulence in humans.”
But his team is still a long way from establishing floats or sinkers indicating better gut health.
“It probably depends on exactly which gut bacteria is producing the gas,” he said.
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