Can you shit out of your mouth? It’s not a question that’s been asked often — although South Park posited it in the Season Six episode “Red Hot Catholic Love” — but it’s one I’ve wondered about for over a decade now.
Twelve or thirteen years ago, I was told a story by my then-roommate, James, that stuck with me, both because of the questions it raised about the capabilities of the human body, and because it was fucking disgusting, involving as it did a young lady shitting out of her mouth. The thing is, I wasn’t sure how much I’d embellished in remembering and re-telling it over the years. James lives on the other side of the world now, but I tracked him down to hear it again from him, just to make sure. This is the story as he tells it:
“I had a friend in [college] — let’s call her Laura. She was slim, athletic and seemed perfectly healthy. She was sat around talking to her friends one night in first year when the conversation turned to bowel movements, like conversations sometimes do. Everyone was talking about how frequently they went for a shit, and she was horrified to hear that people went daily or once every other day. She said she only went for a dump once every couple of weeks — and, when that happened, only passed small pellets.
“Shortly after this, she went on holiday to Spain. She was sat by the pool having a nice time when she felt a bit strange and sick and started choking. She felt something working its way up her throat. Panicking, feeling like she was going to die, she reached into her mouth and felt something, and slowly pulled out a long, oesophagus-shaped turd.
“Laura told me that in strict confidence. I don’t think there’s a single person I’ve met since that I haven’t shared it with.”
It’s not entirely as I remembered it — at some point, a detail had been added in my mind where she vomited while pulling the poo out, and it was like putting your thumb over the end of a hose, but the thumb was a poo and the hose had throw-up in — but the essential details I’d remembered were there: The surprise that people stocked the pond so often; the feeling of something oozing up the throat; and, of course, our heroine plucking a shit from betwixt her lips.
It’s a disgusting tale, but how likely is it to be true?
Clare Morrison, a general practitioner and medical advisor at medexpress, thinks some elements of it might be, er, a bunch of crap. “I’ve occasionally seen patients who only open their bowels every couple of weeks, though this is very unusual and unsatisfactory,” she says. “The rectum tends to expand in these cases, and a huge amount of stool can build up in the rectum and large bowel. Some people are surprisingly untroubled by this, until the pressure increases to intolerable levels. Then they’ll get abdominal pain, and perhaps vomiting. However, I’ve never come across anyone producing a formed stool from their mouth. This seems very unlikely.”
So, if Laura was really only dropping a chocolate penguin every few weeks, she’d probably have been in more discomfort than she seemed to be, as the brown trout snaking up her throat would have been preceded by severe abdominal pain.
While she also wouldn’t have barfed out a shit, something Morrison has encountered is shit-like barf. “Occasionally, in cases of bowel obstruction, there is such a build-up of pressure that fecal material is forced back into the stomach. This is generally associated with great pain, discomfort and bringing up vomit that smells of feces,” she says. However, this stuff is very much vomit that stinks like dumps, rather than shit that comes out like vomit — it emerges in liquid form, emanating from the small bowel, rather than the large bowel where more solid stools are formed.
So Laura wasn’t shitting from her mouth, per se — she was just throwing up some diarrhea. That’s a decade-old mystery solved.
In older, less healthy people than Laura, however, fecal vomiting can take place, but it tends to be caused by extremely serious medical conditions. People with gastrojejunocolic fistula (a rare condition resulting from complications in stomach surgery) often suffer from it, for instance, and it’s been cited as the type of deeply unpleasant, dignity-destroying condition that leads to patients with chronic conditions requesting euthanasia.
Meanwhile, since I was wasting a medical professional’s time with this question, it seemed only appropriate to also ask: Can you eat by sticking food up your butthole? “That seems extremely unlikely,” says Morrison, an intriguingly non-definitive answer.
So it’s a no on pooping through the mouth, a probable no on eating through the anus, a yes-but-it’s-horrible on vomiting up feces, and all in all, a regrettably disgusting investigation. Just like someone pulling a fully-formed poop from their lips, I wish I hadn’t brought it up.