Know Your S**t: Inside Our Guts, review: bogged down by bad puns and false taboos


When you’re presented with a show that’s all about turds, you tend to unleash a deluge — no, wait, a gunk; no, a spontaneous eviction; no, a huge mess – of poop puns. Annoying, however, within the first 10 minutes Know your shit: in our guts (Channel 4), a new series on gut health, had used them all. Apparently the thinking was that getting people to talk candidly about their rectum needed some humor (s**ts and giggles? They missed that one). And so our hosts, identical twins Alana and Lisa Macfarlane, within minutes of introducing themselves, began a self-inflicted form of verbal diarrhea, promising to break the poop taboo by opening a poop headquarters, introducing some problem poopers, lifting the lid, washing away the fear, brushing off the embarrassment and generally talking nonsense.

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The goal of the program was laudable to say the least: Gut health is one of the most exciting new frontiers in science, and your poop holds surprising clues to your mental and physical well-being. But if we are all too shy to even go there, then many serious issues will be passed over in the name of decency.

Whether bombarding that restraint with puns on the word “poop” is the best way to overcome it is another matter. By the end of episode one of Know Your S**t, I was no doubt more informed about the vagaries of my microbiome and the power of chia seeds in the face of a potentially devastating emboutillage. Likewise, now I can never look at a tube of toothpaste the same way again. (It works in much the same way as your crucial rectum-sphincter-anus triumvirate, a handy analogy that’s hard to overlook when it’s time to brush your teeth.)

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The real question about Know Your S**t is what people’s attitudes were beforehand. The stooge assumption of the program makers is that we are all such buttoned-up anal-retentive Brits that we’d rather put up with constipation, incontinence or wilting stomachaches than even mention what every human being without exception has been doing on a regular (or not) basis forever .

My guess is that actually people with problems like the subjects in the program – Emerald, who couldn’t go; Jan, who couldn’t – would go to a doctor anyway, who already has a perfectly workable vocabulary to get around the problem that we actually have to say what we mean, even when it comes to buttocks. In other words, Know Your S**t has exaggerated the poop taboo to appear fearless in breaking it.

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Unfortunately, none other than “Dr” Gillian McKeith did much the same thing on Channel 4 almost 20 years ago with You Are What You Eat, and while her science proved to be as thin as some of her stool samples, she still managed to make people ” talk about poop.” Perhaps one reason why some of Know Your S**t’s suggestions — eat more fiber, do pelvic floor exercises, stay off the onion and garlic — felt a little old-fashioned.