Medical Fun Facts Podcast

MFF0086: Be kind to your anus

Be kind to your anus

Be kind to your anus

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Hello and welcome to The Medical Fun Facts Podcast.

It’s Monday 2 October 2017.

Did you know that 10 years ago today I started working at what was then the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. I started as the Assistant Secretary of the Health Emergency Management and Biosecurity Branch in the Office of Health Protection. The department is now known simply as the Department of Health or Health and the branch is more simply the Health Emergency Management branch. For me, I’m now a Principal Medical Adviser.

The last two shows were recorded a couple of weeks ago so that I could have last weekend off to spend time in Bendigo with my youngest daughter who was competing in the National Clubs Gymnastics Carnival.

I’ve struggled a little with what to talk about tonight but a friend on Twitter suggested K could be for Kleenex and that surely I’d find something to chat about on Kleenex tissues.

Well apart from cleaning up various bodily fluids and cleaning out various orifices, I’m not sure what else there is to say. I tend not to buy the brand name tissue paper, preferring the cheaper versions. That said, the brand names like Kleenex and Sorbent do have softer products. I remember when I was in medical school a general surgeon who was teaching us about anal pathology and surgery, said that in his opinion we should treat our anuses kindly and always use the softest of toilet tissue. He felt, that as doctors, the least we could do was spend the extra money we earned on brand name dunny fax sheets. I said I was more interested in spending my extra income on better quality beef and he pointed out that a diet rich in meat and poor in vegetables would not be kind to my anus or my colon.

The take-home message from this is to be kind to your anus. You only have one. If you abuse your anus you’ll live a life of regret.

Where the hell am I going with this podcast?

Back to Kleenex and my Tweep’s suggestion. I think we all know what Kleenex tissues can be used for in terms of personal hygiene and soaking up bodily fluids that we don’t want staining anything, so I’m going to focus on the word tissue.

In English, tissue can mean a few things. We’ve already alluded to tissue paper which is absorbent paper with a myriad of uses. Tissue can also mean an intricate structure or network of connected things, hence the term, “a tissue of lies”. The most common meaning, at least for me, is material from biological life consisting of specialised cells and their products. Tissue is sort of the in-between level between just having cells and having an organ. But it’s not just the cells, it’s also the stuff between the cells, the extracellular material which along with the cells forms a matrix. The study of tissue is histology and the study of disease of tissue is histopathology.

Animals have different types of tissues, for example, there is connective tissue, muscle tissue, neural tissue and epithelial tissue.

Connective tissue

In connective tissue, the cells are separated by an extracellular matrix which can be soft or hard. For example, bone matrix is hard while in blood, the plasma is soft. Connective tissue helps give shape to organs.

Muscle tissue

There are three types of muscle tissue. Voluntary or striated muscle. Smooth muscle. Cardiac muscle. Each is distinct and I have fond memories of histology practical lessons sitting behind a microscope trying to understand the morphology of each type.

Neural tissue

We have neural tissue in the central and peripheral nervous systems with the central system consisting of the brain and spinal cord.

Epithelial tissue

Epithelial tissue covers organ surfaces like the skin, the reproductive tract, the respiratory tract and the alimentary canal. The epithelial layers are linked and in most situations semi-permeable. The epithelial tissues function is mostly protective but specialised cells can also secrete, excrete and absorb.

The epithelial tissues form our skin and it lines our digestive system as a mucous membrane where water and nutrients are absorbed. Epithelial cells can expel waste as well as secrete enzymes and hormones from glands.

There are various cellular types of epithelial tissue too. Our skin is stratified squamous epithelium. Our bladders have transitional cell epithelium. Our respiratory system is mostly lined with ciliated columnar epithelium. In a woman’s cervix, the epithelium changes from the tough stratified squamous epithelium of the vagina to the more delicate mucinous columnar cells.

Questions for listeners

What do you use tissue paper for?

Do you have a special use for tissue paper?

How do you keep your anus in good health?

Please leave your answers in the comments section of the show notes or on the Facebook page or on YouTube.

That’s episode 86 in the can.

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If you have any questions or comments please let me know. If I’ve said anything incorrect I welcome correction. I’ll catch you next week for episode 87. Something beginning with the letter L. Send me suggestions.

Thank you, and good night.


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