Potty talk “What’s My Pee Telling Me?”

By Lily Hicks

Poop. Everybody does it; no one wants to talk about it – or rather, no one wants to talk about it seriously. With the five-and-under demographic monopolizing what little open conversation exists today regarding urine, feces and flatulence, there has been no opportunity for adults to just … let it out. Authors Josh Richman and Dr. Anish Sheth of “What’s My Pee Telling Me?,” the much anticipated sequel to “What’s Your Poo Telling You?,” are hoping to open up a new line of communication between medical experts and those of us who are looking for information outside of the doctor’s office about what’s happening inside our bathrooms.

As the title indicates, “What’s My Pee Telling Me?” devotes a considerable portion of its pages to the subject of urine. It boasts an array of illustrated sections anywhere between one and two pages apiece that concern a common type of urine and/or urination – for example, “Pungent Pee” is the section dedicated to urine that smells “fishy.” To be accurate, “pungent pee” smells “eggy,” not “fishy,” after the consumption of asparagus due to “the release of sulfur-containing compounds during asparagus digestion,” according to the book.

Eggy-smelling pee, as Richman and Sheth emphatically report, is not to be confused with “fruity-smelling” pee, which could be a sign of diabetes. Ketones, or molecules that are by-products of high blood sugar, can spill into urine and give it “a fresh berry-type aroma.” If your pee ever smells more pleasant than you think it should, you might consider shaking or wiping yourself over to the nearest doctor. And to think that some people have judged smell to be the least important of the five senses!

After the pee chapter, chapters on poop and farting “demystify the inner workings of the human body.” Topics range from how to “poo” at work (“Be sure that your staff photo ID is not hanging off of your pants for the next-stall neighbor to clearly identify who you are”) all the way to “Flatogenic Foods.”

“The Explosion” (“likened by some to the roar of a lion”) is a particular form of gas-passing whose repeat offenders often have their diets to blame for their flatulence; lactose, beans, broccoli and other foods listed as “flatogenic” in the book are less easily digested in the body and leave “ample leftovers for the gas-producing bacteria in our large intestine,” according to the authors.

Following the fart chapter is “Bodily Myths Exposed: Myth or Truth?” Here, myths claiming that it takes seven years for the body to digest gum, or peeing on a jellyfish sting will relieve pain, are refuted. Like other hard-to-digest foods, gum very rarely forms what doctors call a “bezoar,” a ball of undigested material in the stomach.

As for jellyfish stings, urine – with a normal pH of seven – is hardly acidic enough to neutralize alkali-based jellyfish venom. Vinegar, at a pH of about 2.5, is a more viable alternative. Some myths, on the other hand, are proven true, such as “Sitting on the toilet for too long causes hemorrhoids.”

Countless other funny pictures and funnier facts grace the pages of “What’s My Pee Telling Me?” Dr. Patricia Moyer at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., supports the humorist approach Richman and Sheth undertake in their writing. When asked whether or not she uses humor as a means of communicating with her patients, Moyer replied, “all the time.”

“Laughter and humor help people put things in perspective,” she said.

Moyer praises the physical benefits of laughter as well, noting that laughter is medically proven to lower blood pressure.

As she leafed through the pages of “What’s My Pee Telling Me?,” Moyer commented that the book looked “informational but relaxed.” In using humor and a casual style of writing to transmit a message that stresses the importance of bodily awareness, Richman and Sheth reach more people than, say, a lengthy book loaded with medical jargon.

But is reading a book enough for people to overcome a persistent reluctance to talk about their poop, pee and everything in between? Moyer has her doubts.

“Much stronger than a book are people’s inhibitions,” she said. “You have to create an atmosphere where people can talk about those things.”

Richman and Sheth might not keep us from keeping mum about our last visit to the loo, but they may help us spot irregularities where we hadn’t before, prompting us to seek medical attention earlier than we might have. Although it’s safe to say “What’s My Pee Telling Me?” won’t completely revolutionize the way we see pee (or anything else in our toilets), it’s certainly a solid start – and an even better laugh.

Lily Hicks can be reached at [email protected]