Can You Eat Your Poop?

So you’ve been thinking about it, and you really want to know if you can eat your poop. Although I wouldn’t personally want to do it, I’m not judging you for thinking about it. Maybe your child ate poop by accident, or maybe you’re curious because your dog does it and is seemingly fine. Maybe you want to know what it tastes like, that’s your prerogative. Let’s just dive right in and answer the question… can you eat your poop?

There’s a name for eating poop, and that is coprophagia. While most people would not do this willingly, there are circumstances where we may do so inadvertently and unknowingly. There’s also those who believe we do so on a regular basis when we touch contaminated surfaces and fail to wash our hands before touching our mouths or something we are about to eat.

What happens if you eat poop?

The truth is, nothing really happens. Poop is considered waste, and can have harmful bacteria, organisms, and other toxic waste. It also tends to smell bad, so it is not something most people would willingly consume. However, other than the potential issues you could have from contaminated poop, there wouldn’t be much to worry about.

Experts do not believe there is any benefit to eating your poop, though, so if you want to consume your poop to improve your health, that’s not the best idea. It would be better to consume digestive enzymes and fermented foods that help you break down your food properly so that you get as much nutrients out of them as you can before it turns into poop!

What kind of problems can you get from eating poop?

While eating poop is not particularly harmful outside of being a cultural faux pas, there are many harms that can come to you if you eat poop, whether purposefully or accidentally.

Here’s a list of things you could get from consuming poop that could cause serious problems:

  • Bacteria – such as E. coli, campylobacter, listeria
  • Viruses – viruses such as Hepatitis A, norovirus and rotavirus can be contracted from ingesting feces. Norovirus and rotavirus are more commonly referred to as the “stomach bug.”
  • Parasitic worms – parasites such as worms (pin worms and tape worms) can travel from person to person via fecal contamination
  • Parasitic amoebas – amoebas such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium can travel from person to person via fecal contamination, including contaminated water

Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can lead to further problems that should deter you from poop consumption. For example, Hepatitis A can lead to liver failure and death. Campylobacter can lead to long term effects such as IBS and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Animal feces is more likely to carry a wider variety of pathogens, including salmonella, yerseniosis, toxoplasmosis, Baylisascaris procyonis, etc. These pathogens can cause a variety of symptoms, and may lead to blindness and death.

Toxoplasmosis in particular is very harmful for pregnant women, and so it is recommended that pregnant women avoid changing kitty litter where possible, and use gloves while changing and wash hands immediately after if it is absolutely necessary.

What should I do if I, or my child, accidentally ingest poop?

You may call Poison Control or your doctor if you are concerned 1-800-222-1222.

Otherwise, you should monitor for symptoms. Some of the symptoms that may arise early from poop consumption are nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. You should also check for a fever every half hour.

It is important to contact your doctor immediately if any symptoms do arise. Also continue to monitor in the weeks ahead as a stool analysis may be necessary if any pathogens or parasites are suspected. Some symptoms of a parasitic infection include loose, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, increased appetite, weight loss, rashes, and an itchy rectal area, and even allergies.

What disorders cause someone to eat their own poop?

Aside from accidentally ingesting poop or just uncommon curiosity, there are medical conditions that can cause someone to eat poop, often repetitively. This is considered a form of pica, which is defined as a craving for substances that don’t provide nutrients because of a psychological disorder.

Coprophagia…has been associated with medical disorders like seizure disorders, cerebral atrophy, and tumors and with psychiatric disorders like mental retardation, alcoholism, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, fetishes, delirium, and dementia.

Lingeswaran, A., Vijayakumar, V., & Dinesh, J. (2009)

It also happens that sometimes young children will eat poop, whether it is just that they stuck their hand in their diaper or they are copying behavior from a dog.

Is it illegal to eat poop?

There are multiple laws regarding poop that were enacted in hopes of promoting health of the public at large.

Such laws include the prohibition of pooping in public, how and where we can discard of feces (including pet feces).

There are no laws in the United States that would prohibit or punish you for eating poop. You cannot force someone else to eat poop, of course. And although it is not illegal to eat poop, if you mention doing so to your doctor, they may want to run some testing for nutritional deficiencies or other medical problems.

What about poop transplants?

Poop transplants are actually a thing!

Poop transplants can be very beneficial for those with digestive issues such as Chron’s and IBS. It can also be helpful for those with persistent bacterial infections such as C. diff.

The common method of performing a poop transplant is testing and processing the poop to ensure it is from a healthy individual and won’t cause unwanted infections. Then it is transferred using a tube. I’ve read that now they are actually manufacturing poop pills.

The result is reduced inflammation, diarrhea, constipation and other symptoms of digestive disease. The influx of bacteria from a healthy individual help to normalize the microbiota of the person receiving the transplant.

Would you eat your poop?

I personally would not eat my poop, and I’m careful to wash my hands often, and especially before consuming anything at all. Would you eat your poop? If you’re comfortable sharing with others, leave a comment letting us know why you would consider eating poop!