Believe it or not, this photo of our Bristol Stool Chart was inspired by a failed recipe (we’ll let you guess which :D) and it provides a visual representation of what types of poop humans can produce. There’s also so much more to cover but keep this image in mind as we answer some common questions.
Why should we care about our bowel movements? Why are poops important to learn about?
Paying attention to what we eat and drink is important for everything from athletic performance to increasing our natural energy levels, giving our bodies the nutrients it needs, and more. On the other ‘side’, feces can give clues to your doctor or dietitian about the quality of your diet and underlying health issues such as digestive problems (IBS, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s and more), microbiome bacterial or viral infections, colon cancer, and more.
As Sir Francis Bacon said, knowledge is power. The more you identify, catalogue, and understand the difference between healthy poos and unhealthy poos, the quicker you can make necessary changes to improve your health. You might want to make adjustments to your diet to help with constipation or diarrhea, identify foods in your diet that cause your stool to be difficult to pass or to float, or to make a visit to see your doctor if there’s a problem.
What are the types of poop on the Bristol Stool Chart?
1: hard, rabbit-like pellets that are hard to expel
2: a contiguous piece but lumpy and still a bit hard
3: a smoother sausage-like poop with cracks
4: sausage or snake-like, smooth and soft with the texture or firmness of nut butter
5: soft pieces, clearly separated
6: mushy stool, ragged edges, not well-defined
7: entirely liquid stool
Do girls poop?
Yes, girls poop. So do the Kardashians and other celebrities, your parents, the pope and the president. No one is too important or special not to poop.
Why is my poop red/green/black?
You might have red poop because of something as innocuous as eating beets or even food coloring. The worst scenario is if your poop is red because of blood. This can be the result of a bleeding ulcer or hemorrhoids, for example.
Green poop, or yellowish-green stool, is usually associated with food moving too quickly through your intestines with the yellowish-green bile not being fully catalyzed by enzymes in the gut that turn it brown. Other causes of green stool are: infections, digestive issues (e.g. IBS, celiac disease), food coloring, or a diet high in dark-green leafy vegetable such as kale, spinach, or collard greens.
Black, tarry stools can signal a real issue in your body, including internal bleeding. You’ll likely need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you are pregnant, stool changes can occur that have them looking very dark brown or nearly black. So can iron tablets and folic acid supplements. You’ll want check with your doctor to ensure your stool changes are safe. Remember that food dyes can also lead to black poop.
What if my stool is white or pale?
Pale poop can be a result of a liver or gallbladder issue. The liver might not be producing enough bile, there could be a blockage in the hepatic ducts or common bile ducts. Diseases of the liver (such as cirrhosis and hepatitis) and gallbladder (e.g. gallstones) are typically implicated. Other reasons for pale stool could include pancreatic issues, celiac disease, intestinal parasites, cystic fibrosis, and more.
How long should my poops be?
Stool length can vary based on a number of factors. Generally it should be somewhere between 4 and 12 inches long, depending on how often you go (if you have a bowel movement every other day, they might be on the longer side).
Why are my stools long and thin?
Pencil-thin, string-like stool can be a sign of constipation or diarrhea. This type of poop can be related to a low-fiber diet, change in hormone levels, an infection, a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, or even colorectal cancer.
Why are my poops hard?
It could be the case that the waste products moving through your system are going too slowly while the colon could be absorbing too much water. This will leave you with hard, dry, difficult-to-pass stool (e.g. see Bristol stool chart #1 and 2 above). Hard, dry stool can be a side effect of medication or due to a more constipating diet. Read below on what causes constipation to learn how to stop it.
Why do I have loose stool?
If loose stools are not your normal modis operandi at the toilet, it’s worth paying attention to. Diarrhea or loose stools can be caused by food choice and food contamination, viral infections, as a side effect of medication, too much caffeine, stress, IBS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or food allergies. Food sensitivities and intolerances (e.g. lactose intolerance) can also cause loose stools. Diarrhea can cause dehydration and it should be addressed by a medical professional if lasting longer than 6-7 days, to help rule out underlying conditions.
How often should I poop?
As mentioned in The Straight Talk on Stool, when this writer was but a teenager, her pediatrician asked how often she had bowel movements. The answer of “once every 3-4 days” was met with a response of “that’s normal, everyone is different.” Of course in her later studies, young, dietitian-to-be found that having 3-4 days worth of toxins in one’s gut is not normal nor healthy. So we’ll offer here that it is considered normal to poop at a frequency of three times per day to every other day. Beyond 2-3 days, the waste sitting in your gut isn’t doing you any favors and will likely become even harder to expel.
It’s helpful to track and establish your own frequency and either start working to make it better or to notice when it changes and needs attention.
What happens if I don’t poop for a week?
You’re probably not going to be feeling too good and if you’re eating and still not pooping, you might develop fecal impaction, megacolon – a dangerous distention of the colon, and even the rupture of the colon. Definitely no bueno.
What causes constipation?
Common causes of constipation include:
- Not enough water or hydration
- Lack of dietary fiber
- A sedentary lifestyle, not enough exercise
- Glutinous or gluten-containing foods
- Too much fiber
- Red meat
- Processed, fried, or fast-foods
- Certain medications
- Dairy products
Why is poop smelly?
While no poop in the history of humankind has probably smelled like roses, it also shouldn’t smell like something died or be so odoriferous that a plane has to make an emergency landing. To not be that guy, or girl, choose healthier foods to eat and help your microbiome out. Poop can get really stinky when we eat certain foods (such as red meat, broccoli, or eggs) or have gut dysbiosis (e.g. not the right amounts of beneficial bacteria).
But that’s not all, folks. There could be issues with malabsorption (like with celiac disease), antibiotics, gastrointestinal infections, food allergies and intolerances, and gas-fermenting bacteria in your gut (producing such sulfur-rich secretions that you might find yourself inquiring “yes, Satan?” as you turn to see if you have a visit from the dark lord himself).
Why does my poo leave streaks in the toilet?
Stool will often leave streaks or smears in the toilet because it is sticky with mucous. You could try increasing the fiber in your diet or avoiding foods that lead to the condition.
Should poop sink or float?
Unlike ‘witch swimming’ of centuries ago, where the accused was thought to be guilty if floating in a body of water (and thusly next likely being burned at the stake) and innocent if sinking to the bottom (thus, likely drowning to death), there is a clear, casualty-free answer when it comes to your stool. Floating feces can indicate a high-fat diet, gas, or malabsorption in the gut. So, ideally, poop should sink gently to the bottom.
Why are my poops different around my period?
The answer, in a word: prostaglandins. These are hormone-like compounds that play a role in menstruation, the pain that can accompany it, and can increase bowel movements and cause loose stools or diarrhea around your cycle.
What is a ‘perfect’ or healthy poo?
The best poo is closes to the 4th poop on the Bristol stool chart – it should be ideally one longer poo or a few medium-sized ones. As for the pooping session itself, your time at the toilet should be pain-free and require only minimal pushing in order to fully defecate. It should not take more than a few minutes from feeling the urge to poo to getting to the ‘throne’ and delivering the poo package into the toilet bowl. In terms of color, pretty much all shades of brown are considered normal and will vary based on what you eat, bile and enzymes.
How long should pooping take?
As mentioned above, pooping shouldn’t take long – just a few minutes really, and without much straining or any pain. If your stool session is taking 10-15 minutes or longer, you might be constipated.
Finally, how can I poop better?
The first step is that knowledge piece – gather information about your bowel habits and what types of poops you are experiencing.
Experiencing a problem? Consult your friendly dietitian – we love talking about not only what and how you eat, but what your poops are like. Don’t worry about TMI or giving too much information, the details you give can help us assess what’s going in your body and your health. We can identify digestive issues, suggest additional testing (if needed), help reduce bloating and gas, increase frequency of bowel movements and their quality.
Knowledge is power, and pooping well is a power too. Better poops lead to a better you!
If you missed Part I: Straight Talk on Stool, check it out too.