MIT researchers want to build database of human excrement and are asking people to send them photos of their bowel movements for analysis
- Researchers want 100,000 photos of feces to train an AI
- The project is run by Auggi, an MIT startup, and Seed, a microbiome company
- The team puts the photos into one of seven types using the Bistol Stool Scale
There are 79 million people around the world defecating at any given time of day.
A new technology company hopes that just 100,000 of them will be willing to turn around and take a picture after they’ve finished, and then send it to them for research.
Seed, a collective that researches the human microbiome, has partnered with researchers from MIT who are working on an artificial intelligence called Auggi that’s capable of analyzing images of human feces.
‘Every day, you flush away a goldmine of data—your poop’s size, shape, color, texture, consistency, and frequency can offer important insights in your overall health,’ the group’s website claims.
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A team of gut researchers from MIT and Seed are hoping to get 100,000 feces photos to help build a database that shows general gut health
Gut conditions are a common yet taken-for-granted phenomenon that the team hope to learn more about through their research.
They estimate as many as three-quarters of the world population suffer from some form of digestive issue, including constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and irregular bowel movements.
By training Auggi to learn how to categorize user photos using the Bristol Stool Scale in order to begin building a generalized database of human feces in order to make inferences about overall bowel health.
People interested in participating can go to seed.com/poop to sign up. The team promises all photos will be anonymized before being added to the database
The Bristol Stool Scale ranges from Type 1, defined as ‘separate hard lumps’ associated with constipation, to Type 7, which is ‘liquid consistency with no solid pieces’ and often associated with gut inflammation.
WHAT IS THE BRISTOL STOOL SCALE?
The Bristol-Stool Scale is a common diagnostic tool that classifies human feces in seven different types.
Type 1 – Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)
Type 2 – Sausage-shaped but lumpy
Type 3 – Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface
Type 4 – Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft
Type 5 – Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily)
Type 6 – Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, mushy stool
Type 7 – Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid
Normal stool is associated with either Type 3, ‘a sausage shape with cracks in the surface,’ or Type 4. ‘like a smooth, soft sausage or snake.’
To ensure users’ privacy is protected, the researchers will strip out all metadata and other identifying information attached to the photo before sending it to Auggi for analysis.
To begin with, the team made prototypes using Play-Doh to test Auggi’s general shape recognition capability.
‘We spent countless hours just making different Play-Doh models,’ Auggi co-founder David Hachuel told The Verge.
‘We actually 3D-printed a toilet just to emulate how that would happen in real life.’
Later the group turned to Reddit, where they found a substantial number of users already posting photos of their own bowel movements.
The Bristol Stool Scale was formalized in 1992 and ranks stool into seven different types
The long-term goal of the project is to create a tool that will let users better manage their own gut health, especially people struggling with digestive issues.
People interested in participating can go to seed.com/poop.
The page will load on desktop computers but has been optimized for mobile phones.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MY BOWEL MOVEMENTS?
It is important to try to make time for your bowels each day. Most bowels respond best to a regular habit.
About 30 minutes after eating is the most likely time for the bowel to work. This is because of the ‘gastro-colic response’ which means that eating sets waves of activity in motion in the bowel.
Try not to rush going to the toilet. If you have a tendency to be constipated, set aside about ten minutes in the toilet.
Preferably this should be at a time when you are not rushing to do other things. Find a toilet that you feel comfortable to use and where you do not feel inhibited by lack of privacy or time.
Remove constipating medication
If you are taking any medicines (prescribed or bought from the chemist) ask your doctor or chemist if they could be contributing to your constipation.
If possible, try to remove constipating medications, e.g codeine.
Firstly, make sure you are comfortable on the toilet. It is most-natural for humans to squat to pass a stool.
You may find that having your feet on a footstool, about 20-30cm (eight to ten inches) high helps by improving the angle of the rectum within the pelvis and making it easier to pass stools.
Relax and breathe normally. Do not hold your breath as this will encourage you to strain.
Tighten your abdominal muscles. You should feel them push forwards and sideways. This is called the brace.
Concentrate on relaxing the anus (back passage) to allow the stool to pass. Do not push from above without relaxing the anus below.
Drink more water
Try to drink at least 1.5 litres (six to eight cups) of fluid per day, unless advised otherwise by your doctor as the body may become dehydrated if it is not replaced.
Dehydration can result in constipation. Try to limit the amount of coffee and alcohol you drink as this can irritate the bowels as well as causing dehydration.
High fibre diets aren’t always the best
Eating regularly is the best stimulant for your bowels. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can lead to a sluggish or irregular bowel habit.
Contrary to popular belief a high fibre diet is not always the best diet for people who suffer from constipation.
Regular meals and an adequate fluid intake are more important. Too much fibre can lead to an increase in bloating and discomfort.
If you do feel your diet is short on fibre, try to use fruit and vegetables (soluble fibre) rather than cereals (insoluble fibre) as they are less bloating.
Be careful not to eat excessive amounts of fibre as this could lead to loose bowel motions that are difficult to control.
Some foods can act as natural laxatives in some people, such as liquorice, chocolate, prunes, figs and spicy food.
Exercise can help to improve bowel habits as it helps to stimulate the bowel to work regularly but be careful not to overdo it.
If you lead a very inactive lifestyle (driving to work at a desk job) even taking a regular walk at lunchtime can make a difference.
There are specific exercises for your sphincter and pelvic floor that may help to improve both bowel function and control.