Medical and Slang Words for the Digestive System N to Z

A - E     F - M

Continuing down the alphabet with more words and phrases to help you when you are having those gut related conversations with a health professional or a concerned friend.

N

Never Ending Wipe

The never ending wipe is the opposite of the ghost wipe. Each time you wipe the paper still has poop or poo on it and you feel like you will never get clean. Some people say that more than six wipes qualifies as a never ending wipe.

Unfortunately this is often happens if you are suffering from diarrhea and is a common scenario for people with IBS-D or other intestinal conditions.

Although wet wipes can help they should not be flushed (you don't want to damage the environment and contribute to the build up of those fatbergs!). It may be better to moisten some folded toilet paper.

DiarrheaNurse Tip:

  • Do not leave it too long before you flush. Flush half way along or you might end up with a blockage.

Number Two

A euphemistic alternative word for feces often used when talking to children as in 'do you want to do a number two?'

It is an example of rhyming slang, as two rhymes with poo.

P

Pancreas

This organ located behind the stomach has many different functions and lots of people know that the pancreas is involved in the control of blood sugar by producing insulin but not everybody realizes that it also has a digestive function.

It releases pancreatic juice into the duodenum which contains bicarbonate which neutralizes the acidic chyme (partly digested food) coming from the stomach.

It also produces digestive enzymes which help with the break down of carbohydrates, proteins and fats and the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.

Peristalsis

Peristalsis is the medical term for a series of wave-like muscle contractions which move the food we eat from the esophagus or food pipe to different locations throughout the gut so that it can be digested.

These contractions are not continuous but happen at intervals. Peristalsis can be stimulated into action by eating. 

Pebbledash

In the UK we tend to use pebbledash rather than Jackson Pollock to describe small pieces of poo stuck to the porcelain. As in 'I pebbledashed the toilet'. For more information see Jackson Pollock.

Pharynx

Diagram of the pharynx.

The pharynx or throat is a soft cavity behind the nose and the mouth that links them to the esophagus or food pipe and the trachea or windpipe. Muscles in the pharynx help push the food along and down into the esophagus.

It is divided into three parts, the nasopharynx behind the nose, the oropharynx behind the mouth and the laryngopharynx above the larynx or voice box. 

It has a mucus covered lining that protects the sensitive tissues from damage during the passage of air, food and drink. It also aids in the projection of sound.

It is considered to be part of both the respiratory and the digestive systems.

Inflammation of this area is known a pharyngitis or as we usually say a sore throat!

Plop

Plop can be a general word for poop or more specifically for the kind that makes a short sound as it plops into the water in the toilet bowl which is where the original meaning of the word comes from.

When we were living in France when our children were young they sold a chocolate crispy rice cereal called Ploppies. My husband thought this was hilarious.

Poo

The word poo has only been used since about the 1960s in the UK to mean feces but it quickly became one of the most popular euphemisms. It could have come back from Australia and New Zealand where it is very popular.

The actual word dates back to the sixteenth century but its original meaning was to express disgust about something that you thought was not good.

Poop which is more commonly used in the USA is an older word which originally meant to pass wind but which became solid when it crossed the Atlantic.

I am not sure which word is most popular in Canada. In certain parts it will probably be caca!

It is interesting to note that the word poo is gaining ground in America and poop is becoming slightly more common in the UK.

This could be due to the phenomenon known as the euphemism tread mill.

As a euphemism becomes too well used and associated with the thing that people are trying to avoid saying, they reach for another word! 

Poo Tickets

 Australian slang for toilet paper.

Cartoon of toilet paper.

R

Rectum

The rectum is the medical word for the back passage.

It is situated between the sigmoid colon at the end of the large intestine and the anus.

It is used to store feces until the body is ready to evacuate or have a bowel movement.

Runs

The runs is a term for diarrhea which comes from the time before we had indoor bathrooms and we had to run backwards and forwards to the outhouse.

S

Second Wave Poop

A second wave poop is when you think you have finished your business you get dressed and leave the bathroom only to have to return a few seconds or minutes later for the sequel.

Some people are unfortunate enough to have third, fourth or fifth wave poops. 

Our system is not designed to work properly when sitting on a toilet, as in this position there is a muscle which pulls the gut up causing a kink, like you often see in a garden hose. This impedes the flow.

When we squat however, as we are designed to do, the gut becomes straight and the poop or poo can exit smoothly.

In some cases it could be that the second wave poop happens because of this kink.

If you want to try and avoid the scenario where you just settle back into your bed or chair and then you have to get straight up again try these DiarrheaNurse Tips:

  • Try leaning forward on the toilet and put your feet up on a low stool or pile of books. This simulates the squatting position and you might find that all your poop comes out in one go. It can also help if you just lift your heels as high as you can while keeping your toes on the floor and lean forward.
  • Before leaving the bathroom walk up and down a bit as this can stimulate the second poop to evacuate.
  • Before getting off the toilet press a pad of toilet paper against the anus, as if there is any more poop to come out this can stimulate it to get moving!
  • If you feel as if you still have poop in there try the ' rock and pop ' technique. Place your left hand on your abdomen where it meets your left leg with the bottom edge of your hand in your groin. Rock your body backwards and forwards onto your hand several times.

N.B. If your stools are regularly thin, narrow and pencil like this could be an indication of narrowing or obstruction in the colon and you should see a doctor.

In general if your bowel movements have changed, especially if you are over forty then make that appointment with your doctor.

Shart

A cross between a fart and a shit. You try to release some gas but some shit comes out unexpectedly!

Also known as a Trojan Fart or a Follow Through.

Shit

This very old word can be used as a general noun to describe feces or as a verb, as in 'to shit'.

Like many other long lived words it is thought that it goes back as far as Proto-Indo-European and comes to us via Old German and Old English. The past participle is either 'shat' or 'shitted'.

The original meaning was probably to 'cut or separate' and it is related to the verb 'to shed'.

Having 'the shits' means to have diarrhea.

In Ireland, parts of Scotland and Northern England the alternative word 'shite' with a long 'i' is used. 

Like many ancient words it used to be considered a neutral everyday word but is now thought of as vulgar.

It is used in many alternative ways to describe all kinds of things thought of as bad.

Shy Bowel Syndrome

This is also called parcopresis or psychogenic fecal retention.

Many people feel embarrassed if they have to poop within earshot of somebody else (although not the Romans apparently) but people with shy bowel syndrome find it impossible to go unless they have the required amount of privacy (for them).

This problem can lead to a severe restriction of people's lifestyles, preventing them from traveling or even from leaving the house if it is very bad.

DiarrheaNurse Tips:

  • If you are just embarrassed that somebody might hear or smell you go then put toilet paper in the bowl first to deaden the sound and carry a portable air-freshener with you.
  • Products are now available to spray on the surface of the water to contain the smell, and so the manufacturers say, make going to the toilet more pleasant for you and those around you but are they just manufacturing a problem?
  • In Japan where toilet shyness and embarrassment about having to use the bathroom in public is rife, tiny gadgets exist which play sounds to mask what you are doing!
  • If you have full blown shy bowel syndrome and find it impossible to go in certain places like when you are on holiday, at work, in a strange place or public bathroom, for example, then see your doctor and ask for a referral to a psychologist, as cognitive behavioral therapy can help. N.B. Some people have shy bladders.

Sigmoid Colon

This is the last part of the large intestine between the descending colon and the rectum. The word sigmoid means 's' shaped (from the Greek letter Sigma) and it is indeed shaped like an 's'.

Its job is to store solid and gaseous waste and push it towards the rectum when needed.

As gas is lighter than feces it very cleverly manages to store it in the upper arch of the 's' so that we can evacuate it separately as it passes over the solid waste.

This does not always work though, especially if we have diarrhea. See Shart.

SIBO

This is an acronym meaning Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Normally the small intestine is very clean and has hardly any bacteria in it with most of the gut bacteria living in the large intestine.

However, sometimes the bacteria can migrate and cause all kinds of problems, even interfering with the absorption of nutrients which has knock on effects for other organs in the body.

It used to be thought that SIBO didn't really exist but more up to date testing has proved that it is a real thing.

Some doctors believe that a percentage of people with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome really have SIBO. For more information see this interesting article.

Sinker

This is a dense heavy stool that sinks quickly to the bottom of the toilet bowl sometimes with a splash. Occasionally it even disappears around the bend and becomes a ghost poop.

If you are prone to this happening follow these DiarrheaNurse Tips:

  • To avoid splash back put some folded toilet tissue in the bowl to provide a softer landing.
  • Look at your diet as dense hard stools which sink quickly are usually a sign of lack of fiber or fluids. You probably need to eat more fruit, veg and whole grains.

Skid Marks

Streak like fecal stains on the inside of the underwear. This can be caused by three things.

  1. Inadequate wiping.
  2. Sharting - passing what you think is just gas but it is also mixed with stool.
  3. Fecal incontinence which can be caused by some bowel disorders like IBS-D but also by medication, diet, muscle or nerve problems.  

DiarrheaNurse Tips:

  • Check that the toilet paper is clean before getting dressed.
  • If you are worried about skid marks then try wearing protection like a pad.
  • If you are suffering from regular fecal incontinence then see a doctor.

Small Intestine

The first part of the intestines connected to the stomach made up of the duodenum, jejunum and ileum.

This is where most of the nutrients from our food are absorbed.

Steatorrhea - Fatty Stool

Steatorrhea is a medical term used to describe stool with a high fat content.

It tends to float and be pale, bulky and foul smelling.

For more information about the different conditions that may cause this please see here.

Stomach

The stomach is a muscular sack between the esophagus and the small intestine which can expand and contract to accommodate food.

It has a sphincter or valve at each end (esophageal and pyloric) that control the passage of the food in and out.

The muscles of the stomach churn the food in order to break it up physically and stomach acid and enzymes further break down the food chemically. In particular the enzyme pepsin helps to break down protein.

By the time the food is ready to leave the stomach it has been turned into chyme which is semi-liquid, broken down and partially digested food.

Stool

Stool or stools are words often used by medical professionals as synonyms for poop. There are used more commonly than feces these days.

For example: 'stool analysis' or 'my stools are black'.

T

Toddler Diarrhea

Toddler Diarrhea is not as you might think a toddler who just happens to have diarrhea, it is a recognized disorder which is a bit like junior irritable bowel syndrome. 

Toot

 To toot is to make a high pitched sound when you pass wind.

Transit Time

This is the time it takes for the food you eat to travel from your mouth to the exit point at your anus.

Normal transit time in healthy people is between 12 and 48 hours but it does vary a lot from person to person or according to which foods you have been eating.

Longer than 72 hours or shorter than 12 hours might indicate a problem.

Men tend to have quicker transit times than women.

To test your own transit time eat something like sweetcorn or beets/beetroot and check each time you have a bowel movement to see how long it takes to come out.

Transverse Colon

This is the second part of the large intestine after the ascending colon. It crosses the abdomen horizontally from right to left under the stomach and is the longest and bendiest part of the intestines.

Weirdly it is longer in women than men and this makes it technically more difficult to do a colonoscopy on a woman.

Trump

To trump is British slang for to fart loudly, like a trumpet fanfare. Sorry Mr President.

Cartoon of a trumpet.

Turd

Turd is a very old word which means 'a piece of excrement'. So it describes an individual poop as in 'I passed three turds'.

The word goes back as far as Proto-Indo-European and then via Proto German, Old English, Old Norse and Middle Dutch we get the word turd whose literal meaning is 'something torn off from the body'.

It used to be a normal everyday word but it is seen as a little tasteless these days. The word turdlet meaning a little turd is also used.

U

Urgency

Fecal or bowel urgency are phrases used by the medical profession to describe an overwhelming urge to have a bowel movement which comes on suddenly, with no warning and often when the person is not near a bathroom.

This is a very distressing symptom which is often suffered by people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, other bowel conditions and illnesses affecting the nerves such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Some people also suffer from urinary urgency.

DiarrheaNurse Tips:

  • Some countries and states have card schemes which allow people quick access to facilities.
  • Some organizations provide maps of all the facilities in their area.
  • Some people take prophylactic Imodium if they are going to be out for a while.   

Uvula

The uvula is a cone shaped piece of tissue and muscle which hangs down at the back of the mouth. Along with the soft palate (the back part of the roof of the mouth) it helps to close off the back of the nose when food and drink is being swallowed so that it does not go the wrong way.

It also produces saliva and helps with the production of consonants in some languages. 

If the uvula is touched it induces the gag reflex which can cause vomiting.

V

Viscera

The organs in the main cavities of the body i.e. the chest and the abdomen but particularly the abdomen.

This is where we get the word visceral from, which means an intuitive deep feeling that is difficult to ignore, just like a gut feeling.

W

Wet Fart

This is caused by mucus escaping with the gas. For more information about this see here.

Whale Fart

A high pitched sound made when passing wind that sounds like a whale singing.

Cartoon of a whale with headphones.

Z

Zoloft - antidepressant

Okay so I am cheating a bit just to finish off with a Z but in fact the antidepressant Zoloft (Sertraline) does have a genuine connection to the subject matter of this website.

Low doses of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and other anti-depressants have been used to help some people with painful IBS-D.

They seem to work on the gut brain connection in some way and lessen the pain and other symptoms although it is not understood why. 

In people taking these drugs at higher doses for depression two of the well known side effects are diarrhea and constipation.




DiarrheaNurse hopes that this information has been useful to you. To access the other parts of the alphabet please click on the links below:

A - E     F - M    


Return to DiarrheaNurse Homepage


Back to Top


Diagram of pharynx By OpenStax College [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Cartoon of whale By Thomas Quella [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons


The materials on this website are provided strictly for general information/educational purposes only please see the disclaimer policy for more information.