Orange Poop: Solving The Mystery Of Orange Oil
Editor's note: This was originally posted on the author's blog. He has submitted it to PoopReport presumably as a public service. You'll see why in a moment.
I've got one for you, Dr. House. See if you can diagnose this.
Oil came out of my butt. Yellowish-orange oil. Lots of it. It was very disconcerting. My wife looked it up on the Internet and figured I was going to die.
Let me take you back.
It was a Tuesday and I got mostly done with work and I was nodding off so I set the timer on my wristwatch for fifteen minutes and laid down on the floor to take a power nap. The nap went well. Then I gathered up my stuff and went to my desk and noticed an odd smell. Not exactly identifiable, but somewhat excretory.
I figured somebody let one.
That's what doctors call it: somebody let one. The act of actually doing it is called "letting one." As in, "Hey, Jim, why do you have that funny look on your face?" To which Jim would respond, "Oh, it's nothing. I'm just letting one."
Anyway, I figured somebody let one. But then I walked to a different place and I noticed the smell again. Ditto for a third location. At this point, I'm figuring that the likelihood of a mystery person following me around and having gas was not very great. At this point, I'm figuring the only constant is me, and maybe I'm the one who smells like, well, like somebody let one.
So I retired to the bathroom.
Where, to my horror, I discovered that something very bad had happened while I was napping.
Something had come out of my butt.
Immediately, I thought of those potato chips in fake oil that are supposed to give you anal leakage.
"Anal leakage." If there's ever a phrase to strike terror in the human heart, that's it.
But I hadn't had any potato chips. I hadn't eaten anything that could have had that fake fat in it. The day before, I had eaten several pieces of wheat bread and a couple of dinner rolls, some broccoli, and a wonderful big fish steak. That's all I'd eaten in the thirty-six previous hours.
Well, after attending to matters the best I could, I went to a nearby store and bought a pair of pants.
Don't ask me why.
And when I came back to the bathroom to change into them, I felt like I needed to actually, well, go to the bathroom.
Which is where the oil comes in.
Or, to be more accurate, comes out.
Because right there, right in the toilet bowl below me, was something that looked like Italian dressing. There was the water, and then there were dozens of little floating oil blobs. Yellow-orange oil blobs. Glistening yellow-orange oil blobs. And that came out of me.
Which, all things considered, is kind of peculiar. Because I've never had oil come out of me before. And because, if I remember tenth-grade science correctly, the average operational liver is supposed to make bile, which is supposed to emulsify fat in the digestive system. That means that before anything gets to the point of leaving the body, the fat -- and oil -- probably ought to be pretty much broken down, digested, and absorbed. The fact that some kind of oil should make it all the way through the digestive system intact is not a good thing.
I told my wife about it.
Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera so she could see it.
But I told her about it. And she spent ten minutes on the Internet before she came to the conclusion that my pancreas was shot and, after suffering a while, I would die a certain death. Either that or I had a malabsorption problem and, after suffering a while, I would die a certain death.
Which is not good news, particularly on a Tuesday.
The next morning I felt a little better. The discomfort was mostly gone and I had some good food in me and I figured it would set things right.
But then I went to the bathroom again.
And I was right back in Italian dressing land.
Which brought us to Thursday: the day my doctor doesn't have office hours.
One of the hardest parts of having oil come out of your butt is that you want to tell people about it but you're not certain who would appreciate having the information. I mean, it's a fascinating thing that I'd never heard of before and I was fairly certain it'd never happened to any of my friends. But when it actually came to hearing about my adventure, people seemed pretty sheepish.
So I had to talk about it on the radio. Certainly, that's an awkward process, especially during the lunch hour, but sometimes what you can't say to another person gets a little easier if you say it to eighty thousand people. So, in delicate terms, I described the oil coming out of my butt. I realize it might be distasteful, but it gets it off my chest and it saves me a twenty dollar co-pay. When you can't get a doctor, the medical opinion of faceless strangers with no medical training whatsoever can be comforting.
Most people thought I would suffer a while and then die a certain death.
But one guy called up and asked if I'd eaten any fish.
I said I had. He asked what kind. I said I didn't remember. It was some kind I'd never seen before, at a fish market, some big chunk of a fish and when I asked what kind it was the name she said made no sense to me but she agreed to cut off a big steak anyway. About a two-and-a-half pound steak.
Big enough to fill my frying pan, and my dinner plate, and my belly.
And it tasted great. It was rich and buttery and just delicious.
And the guy on the phone said it had to be escolar.
Escolar. That's some sort of fish.
A very unique sort of fish, actually. A fish that's against the law in Japan. I mean, the people who came up with sushi say this fish is too much. In 1990, our own Food and Drug Administration came out with an advisory saying that this fish should not be sold. Under pressure, after a few years, it withdrew the advisory because of a lack of evidence that the fish ever actually killed anyone. As it is, the government says about five or six ounces at a time is about all you want.
Here's the problem: the escolar has some sort of digestive problem of its own. It can't break down waxes that naturally occur in its diet, so it stores them as oil in its flesh. It stores a lot of them. Escolar can be almost like eating a stick of butter. Under the right conditions, you can actually set an escolar on fire. It's incredibly rich, and consequently very tasty.
Except for the fact that the human body can't digest the fat and waxes in escolar. Not at all. Our bodies extract the fats, which are liquid at our body temperature, and excrete them through the back end. Sounds simple, really isn't. Sounds disgusting, absolutely is. It's like you've got leaky, stinky vegetable oil coming out of you.
All thanks to escolar.
Turns out most doctors know nothing about this, as it is very rare. Several ask-the-doctor things I found on the Internet seem to have stumped the physicians with the symptoms. No search of symptoms turned up the fish.
But that's what it was. I'm not dying.
I just ate some very odd fish. Which I don't suggest you try.