How dirty shit really is

Feces - med. Faeces or faeces, probably in the 19th century from the French Adj. fécal as Feces borrowed into German - is the mostly solid excretion (excrement) of the intestine.

Terms and designations

Other names are chair or bowel movement, in animals - especially herbivores - too Manure, in the hunter's language Solution. The original meaning of the word is Filth, filth, The word is still used in Austria with this meaning. This term can still be found in the “manure brush” (shoe brush) and the “fender” and in the saying “afterglow brings wind and excrement”.

“Shit!” Is the most widespread swear word in the entire German-speaking area and is used every day as an interjection, in adverbial or adjectival terms. "Poop!" And "Crap!", Which are also synonymous with feces, are often used as swear words. (see also fecal language)

The designation chair (short for stool) comes from the time before the general spread of water-flushed toilets, when the so-called body chair, a chair with an opening in the seat and a pot or bucket hanging underneath, was used. The term “stool” has been used to describe human feces since the 16th century.

The idioms too come to a chair or. come to Potte (in the sense of: bringing a lengthy, arduous process to a successful conclusion) have this origin, not least because in sick people the resumed intestinal activity is usually seen as a sign of improvement in the course of the disease.

The derogatory term mutt is also derived from the term feces.

The Greek name for excrement (as well as manure, dirt) is copros. This is contained in terms such as

  • Kopragogum, a laxative that increases peristalsis
  • Coprolalia, the use of indecent expressions, including from fecal language
  • Coprolite (fecal stone), a rock-hard structure usually found in the appendix made of feces, mucus and phosphates,
  • Coprophagia, the eating of feces, be it as a mental disorder or as a species-appropriate food or vitamin intake, among other things in various saprophytes
  • Coprophilia, the sexual arousal from human feces (a paraphilia)
  • Copropraxia, obscene gestures as a neurological-psychiatric symptom (like coprolalia) in Tourette's syndrome

The scientific study of the feces is called scatology.


Feces consist on the one hand of the indigestible parts of the food (see fiber) as well as undigested residues such as fat (see also: steatorrhea), starch and connective tissue and muscle fibers and those 100 to 200 ml of water that were not absorbed in the upper sections of the large intestine.

The body's own substances contain: rejected intestinal cells, residues of digestive enzymes and mucus. The bile pigments bilirubin and biliverdin are produced in the large intestine by bacteria, among others. degraded to stercobilin, bilifuscin and mesobilifuscin and give the faeces their characteristic dark brown to yellowish color. Furthermore, small amounts of the bile acids themselves, as well as the lecithin and other phospholipids, which are also excreted by the bile to protect the intestinal mucosa, are excreted together with the feces.

The unpleasant smell of omnivorous feces is mainly due to indole and skatole, as well as alkanethiols, which are formed during the digestion of proteins, and hydrogen sulfide, which is formed when proteins (with their sulfur-containing amino acids) are broken down by putrefactive bacteria.

With around 30 percent of the dry weight, the so-called intestinal flora is an essential component of the faeces. As normal or site flora, it consists of microorganisms that physiologically (mainly) occur in the large intestine.


Feces are used as a natural fertilizer. In agriculture, this applies in particular to manure (manure from stables with a binding medium, often straw, sawdust, hemp chaff and hay) and manure (liquid consisting of manure and urine). Guano (bird droppings) was a popular fertilizer in the 19th century that was collected and shipped in large quantities on bird-rich islands[1].

In earth building, in addition to lime, manure is also added to the earth in order to improve the material properties of the earth.

Feces in nature and ecosystems

Feces have an important function in ecosystems due to the minerals and other undigested components they contain. It serves as food for mold and mites. When the fungi decompose, nitrates are released, which the plants use as fertilizer in addition to the minerals they contain. Plants such as B. of the rowanberry, the excrement of birds, in particular, is a particularly well-suited means of spreading their seeds due to this fertilizer effect. However, many other seeds also contain a protective layer that is supposed to allow them to survive digestion unscathed.

Some owls sprinkle their enemies with their liquid droppings as they flee.

Many animals such as B. dogs, but also cats, such as the ocelot, the smell of the feces is used to mark their territory.

Rodents and rabbits are herbivores that do not have the ability to ruminate. They excrete the food in the form of soft fecal pills, the appendix, and then swallow it again immediately (a form of coprophagia) in order to be able to absorb the nutrients released in the large intestine. Horses are also not ruminants and therefore excrete a large amount of up to 50 kg of horse droppings per day, depending on how they are fed (every 30 to 120 minutes).

Medical importance

The examination of the faeces for hidden blood (mainly as a haemoccult test) is an important early detection measure in colorectal cancer screening.

The following pathogens, among others, can also be detected in a stool examination or transmitted through feces:

  • Salmonella and Shigella
  • Yersinia enterocolitica
  • Campylobacter
  • Aeromonas
  • Candida / Candida albicans (potentially pathogenic yeast)
  • Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli
  • Cryptosporidia
  • Tapeworms
  • Hookworms
  • Roundworms
  • Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted to humans through the feces of domestic cats.

Furthermore, it has recently become possible to detect inflammation of the intestinal mucosa by detecting calprotectin (a calcium-binding protein) in the faeces, as occurs in ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

Toxic (e.g. lead, cadmium) or radioactive substances (e.g. polonium, uranium) absorbed by the body can be detected in the stool (including urine).

Among the parasites, many tapeworms are dependent on the excretion of tapeworm limbs for reproduction via a host change.

Due to the numerous diseases that can be transmitted through faeces, particular care must be taken during slaughter that no faeces get on the meat.

In the pica syndrome (also: Picazism), a rare form of eating disorder, people consume inedible and sometimes nauseating things, including feces (coprophagia).

Diarrhea, blood, and mucus in the stool are often signs of a serious illness. A list of possible diseases that can cause this can be found in the article Diarrhea.

Transport of the feces

The faeces are not moved continuously in order to evacuate the stool (defecation). Parts of the large intestine can adapt to the amount of stool present, which is called a Accommodation referred to as. By means of a so-called retrograde peristalsis of the transverse colon (the longitudinal leg of the large intestine), which has a so-called pacemaker function, stool in the ascending colon (ascending colon) and appendix (caecum) can be retained and stored.

Normally, peristalsis directed towards the anus occurs only 2 to 3 times a day, which in the sense of a so-called mass movement causes the rectum to be filled and thus triggers the stool reflex. If this is deliberately suppressed, the rectum can also accommodate and serve as stool storage.

Feces and sexuality

The sexual preference for feces is called coprophilia. In the area of ​​so-called clinic sex, faeces play a role in connection with enema, since excretion is artificially forced here. In return, the excretion can also be artificially suppressed, e.g. B. by means of an anal plug. In the jargon, sexual games with feces are also called caviar games. They are often part of SM games. Even with practices that are not directly related to the feces itself, such as anal intercourse, anilingus or anal fisting, the "dirtiness" can create a special attraction for some. Passwords are also part of the Dirty talk.

Sigmund Freud distinguished in his drive theory an anal phase in which the child derives satisfaction from the control of his excrement.

Feces in art and literature

  • The artist Piero Manzoni filled his own feces in cans and sold it as Artist shit.
  • The Belgian artist Wim Delvoye helped create Cloaca a machine that simulates the human digestive process and produces "excrement" similar to human feces.
  • A popular children's book is about About the little mole who wanted to know who hit his head.

Individual evidence

  1. H. Schauinsland: Three months on a coral island (Laysan). Bremen 1899

See also

Images of faeces of different species

Categories: Metabolism | Biomass