Researchers Are Asking for Pics of Your Poop—All in the Name of Science
It's part of the #GiveAShit campaign.
Be honest: When was the last time you looked at your poop—let alone considered snapping photos of it? Turns out, that’s exactly what two new health companies are urging you to do, in hopes of creating the world’s first poop image database.
Microbial health company, Seed Health, and Auggi, a gut-health startup, are developing an app as part of part of their “give a shit for science” campaign, and they’re asking people to snap photos of their feces in order to amass 100,000 poop pics from people around the world. Their ultimate goal? For scientists to use the data to train artificial intelligence to decode your poop, determining and diagnosing chronic gut conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
“We don’t always think about stool as like a daily data—I’m putting air quotes around “dump”—but really, as a direct output of our gut health,” Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed Health, explained to The Verge.
Submitting your, uh, specimen is pretty simple: All you have to do is go to www.seed.com/poop on your phone (you definitely don’t want to take your laptop with you to the toilet). Next, click on the purple button that reads “GIVEaSHIT.” After entering your email, you must specify the time of the day you usually poop. Then, you can either upload a photo immediately, or opt to receive an email at a later time corresponding to your poop schedule.
Once the process is complete, the image is separated from all your information, so that your poop is totally anonymous by the time a team of seven doctors sit down to analyze and classify it per the Bristol Stool Chart.
The handy chart breaks down stool into seven types, ranging from Type 1, very constipated, to Type 7, diarrhea. Once you figure out where your poop falls, you can see how your diet and lifestyle is impacting your health.
"A diet rich in fiber tends to have more formed, brown stools, most commonly seen in Bristol Stool Chart Type 4," Christine Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, previously told Health. Or, if your diet’s low in fiber and water, you might find your poops more consistently look like Types 1 through 3. Hydration, exercise habits, medication, antibiotics, stress, and auto-immune diseases can also impact your poop.
Despite the fact that the chart’s pictures are pretty graphic, researchers maintain that many people have trouble diagnosing their own poop. So, the overall goal of this data collection is to train AI to do the diagnosing work for us.
The science has already been tested on faux poop—in the form of blue play-doh moldings—and AI performed correctly essentially 100% of the time. However, it might have a harder time executing the task with real poop. “Obviously, when it comes to real stool, we need real data to achieve similar levels of accuracy," David Hachuel, a co-founder of Auggi, added to CNN.
Hachuel explained to The Verge that once people understand their poop, they will be able to better understand the relationship between their gut and lifestyle.
“They struggle every day making decisions on what to eat, how much exercise to do to keep their symptoms at bay,” he explained. “And so it’s really critical to build this database and to develop these simple monitoring tools to allow those patients to essentially do that at home.”
If all goes well, with the help of your poop, the app will roll out during the first quarter of 2020.
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