Book investigates your fecal matters
Facts and fun of excretory health

By Tom Avril

'Not unlike a snowflake, each bowel movement has a uniqueness that should be regarded with wondrous appreciation.'

OK, so it's not Hemingway, but the opening line of a new book by two Philly-area natives foretells an oddly entertaining - and medically useful - tour of the digestive system. That is, if you have the stomach for it.

What's Your Poo Telling You? (Chronicle Books, $9.95) is the work of Josh Richman and Anish Sheth, college pals who grew up in Mount Airy and Yardley, respectively.

Richman is a Stanford business-school grad and works in California for a company that makes fuel cells, so he has no special expertise on human waste (other than the fascination of the average American male).

Sheth, on the other hand, is a gastroenterology fellow at Yale. Each of the 29 mini-chapters, such as "Floaters vs. Sinkers" and "The Snake," starts off with a graphic description of a different bathroom experience. Then come the scientific facts, under the heading "Dr. Stool says."

While some of the entries are just for fun, others reinforce a serious message: Eat fiber and drink water. Otherwise, the authors write, you risk hard pellets of "Pebble Poo" or the dreaded, desiccated "Log Jam."

Richman may have the subject in his genes - a great-grandfather, grandfather and two uncles were all in the plumbing-supply business in Philadelphia.

"My grandmother likes to say this is me channeling my great-grandfather," Richman says. "He apparently had a unique sense of humor, as well."

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