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Anatomy of the anus and rectum

Defecation is the final act of digestion, by which organisms eliminate solid, semisolid, and/or liquid waste material from the digestive tract via the anus.

Humans expel feces with a frequency varying from a few times daily to a few times weekly.[1] Waves of muscular contraction (known as peristalsis) in the walls of the colon move fecal matter through the digestive tract towards the rectum. Undigested food may also be expelled this way, in a process called egestion.

Open defecation is the practice of defecating outside or in public, i.e. without using a toilet of any kind, mostly due to extreme poverty in developing countries.

Description[edit]

Physiology[edit]

The rectum ampulla (anatomically also: ampulla recti) temporarily stores fecal waste. As the waste fills the rectum and expands the rectal walls, nervous system stretch receptors in the rectal walls stimulate the desire to defecate. This urge to defecate arises from the reflex contraction of rectal muscles, relaxation of the internal anal sphincter, and an initial contraction of the skeletal muscle of the external anal sphincter. If the urge is not acted upon, the material in the rectum is often returned to the colon by reverse peristalsis, where more water is absorbed and the faeces is stored until the next mass peristaltic movement of the transverse and descending colon. If defecation is delayed for a prolonged period the fecal matter may harden, resulting in constipation. If defecation occurs too fast, before excess liquid is absorbed, diarrhea may occur.[2]

When the rectum is full, an increase in intra-rectal pressure forces apart the walls of the anal canal, allowing the fecal matter to enter the canal. The rectum shortens as material is forced into the anal canal and peristaltic waves push the feces out of the rectum. The internal and external anal sphincters along with the puborectalis muscle allow the feces to be passed by muscles pulling the anus up over the exiting feces.[citation needed]

Defecation is normally assisted by taking a deep breath and trying to expel this air against a closed glottis (Valsalva maneuver). This contraction of expiratory chest muscles, diaphragm, abdominal wall muscles, and pelvic diaphragm exerts pressure on the digestive tract. Ventilation at this point temporarily ceases as the lungs push the chest diaphragm down to exert the pressure. Thoracic blood pressure rises and as a reflex response the amount of blood pumped by the heart decreases. Death has been known to occur in cases where defecation causes the blood pressure to rise enough to cause the rupture of an aneurysm or to dislodge blood clots (see thrombosis). Also, in releasing the Valsalva maneuver blood pressure falls; this, coupled with standing up quickly to leave the toilet, can result in a blackout.[citation needed] [3]

When defecating, the external sphincter muscles relax. The anal and urethral sphincter muscles are closely linked. Experiments by Dr. Harrison Weed at the Ohio State University Medical Center have shown they can only be contracted together, not individually, and that both show relaxation during urination[citation needed]. This explains why defecation is frequently accompanied by urination.

Voluntary and involuntary control[edit]

Defecation may be involuntary or under voluntary control.  Young children learn voluntary control through the process of toilet training.  Once trained, loss of control called fecal incontinence, may be caused by physical injury, nerve injury, prior surgeries (such as an episiotomy), constipation, diarrhea, loss of storage capacity in the rectum, intense fright, inflammatory bowel disease, psychological or neurological factors, or death.[4]

Anal cleansing[edit]

Main article: Anal cleansing

The anus and buttocks may be cleansed after defecation with toilet paper, similar paper products, or other absorbent material. In many cultures, e.g. in Muslim culture, water is used for anal cleansing, either in addition or exclusively.

Posture[edit]

The positions and modalities of defecation are culture-dependent. The natural and instinctive method used by all primates, including humans, is the squatting position. Squat toilets are still used by the vast majority of the world, including most of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.[5] The widespread use of sit-down toilets in the Western world is a recent development, beginning in the 19th century with the advent of indoor plumbing.[6]

Bockus' Gastroenterology, the standard textbook on the subject, states: "The ideal posture for defecation is the squatting position, with the thighs flexed upon the abdomen. In this way the capacity of the abdominal cavity is greatly diminished and intra-abdominal pressure increased, thus encouraging the expulsion of the fecal mass."[7]

Society and culture[edit]

Mythology and tradition[edit]

The caganer is a defecating figurine in Spanish Nativity scenes

Some peoples have culturally significant stories in which defecation plays a role. In a Wemale and Alune legend from the island of Seram, Maluku Province, Indonesia, the mythical girl Hainuwele defecates valuable objects.[8] One of the traditions of Catalonia (Spain) relates to the Caganer, a figurine depicted in the act of defecation appearing in nativity scenes in Catalonia and neighbouring areas with Catalan culture. The exact origin of the Caganer is lost, but the tradition has existed since at least the 18th century.[9]

Terminology[edit]

Defecation is often referred to by terms such as pooping, shitting, dumping, crapping, and others.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A description of Normal Bowel Movements". 30 September 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  2. ^ NIH. "Bowel Movement". Medline. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  3. ^ [Cardio-vascular Events at Defecation: Are They Unavoidable? - Medical Hypotheses, Jul 1990, 32(3):231-3]
  4. ^ "Fecal incontinence - Causes". Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Kira A. The Bathroom. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976, revised edition, pp.115,116.
  6. ^ A History of Technology, Vol.IV: The Industrial Revolution, 1750-1850. (C. Singer, E Holmyard, A Hall, T. Williams eds) Oxford Clarendon Press, pps. 507-508, 1958
  7. ^ Bockus (1964). Gastroenterology (2nd ed.). Philadelphia and London: Saunders. p. 754. 
  8. ^ The Oxford Companion to World Mythology - Hainuwele
  9. ^ "A traditional Nativity scene, Catalan-style". BBC News. 23 December 2010. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Deeb, Benjamin (2004). Healthy to the Core: How to Measure Effective Defecation. Greenwood Press.
  • Widmaier, Raff & Strang (2006). Vanders' Human Physiology, the mechanisms of body function. Chapter 15. McGraw Hill.
  • Cardio-vascular Events at Defecation: Are They Unavoidable? - Medical Hypotheses, Jul 1990, 32(3):231-:

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defecation — Please support Wikipedia.
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Thu, 30 Jul 2015 20:55:50 -0700

The glass facade of Cooper Union's $111 million academic building offers a remarkable view — of a back alley packed with vagrants. “I have seen drug deals, public urination, defecation, masturbation in broad daylight in the Taras Shevchenko alley,” a ...
 
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Mon, 03 Aug 2015 12:18:45 -0700

People of the nine villages of Kumurisinga gram panchayat are convinced that defecation in the open causes stomach ailments and stunted growth of children. They have formed vigilance committees, for men and women, to keep an eye on people defecating ...

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... Sanitation and Hygiene is a new vision which, in line with the proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims at achieving universal access to adequate and sustainable sanitation and hygiene services and eliminate open defecation, by 2030.

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Thu, 30 Jul 2015 06:29:12 -0700

No country in the world has more open defecation than India, where one in two people defecate outside. Every year, 200,000 children in India die from diseases caused by fecal contamination. Although open defecation has been reduced by 31 percent since ...

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Tue, 07 Jul 2015 23:45:00 -0700

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