A product of our body’s waste, human feces, can be a very useful element in the field of medical and scientific research: they contain a lot of information on the health of our body, which can only be obtained through their observation.

In 1998, two British doctors developed the Bristol Scale, a scientific classification based on the consistency of feces, which helps to detect any anomalies in the gastrointestinal system. Particular care must be taken when feces occur as described at the end of the scale: hard and separate lumps or sausages suggest the presence of constipation, while soft and soft or liquid flaked feces indicate ongoing inflammation. The color is equally important; the presence of blood in the feces or a color that tends to be red or black and should be reported to the doctor, as well as the presence of mucus.


Consistency and intestinal transit

The consistency of the feces depends on the intestinal transit, i.e. the time that passes from when we eat to when the first scraps are ready to be expelled by defecation.

As Professor Silvio Danese, Head of the Intestinal Chronic Inflammatory Diseases Centre in Humanitas explains: “The so-called intestinal transit time is very variable from person to person, so there is no general rule”.

When transit times get too long, feces can become dehydrated and hard. To speed up the process, there are two key ingredients, fruit and vegetable fibers, which promote intestinal motility, and water, which softens them,” explains Professor Danese.


Intestinal bacteria

Research is focusing a great deal on the study of bacteria in the intestine, the so-called microbioma.

It is becoming increasingly clear that these microorganisms play a role in many aspects of health, not only those where the link with the intestine and digestion is evident, for example Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, obesity and diabetes, but even in some conditions without any apparent link, such as allergies, cancer, autism or rheumatoid arthritis. As we do blood tests today, it is likely that one day we will do that of intestinal bacteria. For now, however, the information that can be obtained from such a test is not very useful in practice,” concludes Professor Danese.