It’s time to get TMI, because today we’re talking poop. Or maybe we should say today your poop is talking, because truly, your poop is telling you all about your health every day, even if you don’t “go” every day. So let’s dive right into it, shall we? Here are all the ways your poop is talking, from frequency to consistency to color and back…
Most people assume you need to poop every day to be healthy. But this isn’t always the case. “Normal” means you poop anywhere from three times a week to three times a day. It should only take you a few minutes each time, too. However, it’s better to know your “normal” than to compare your bowel habits to others. While the frequency can vary from person to person, if you’re going less than this or it’s taking you a long time to have a bowel movement, you may be constipated.
The best indicator of poop health is in its consistency, that is, how firm or soft it may be. This is where things can get real awkward, trying to describe the shape and texture of your poop. Luckily, there’s something called the Bristol stool chart to help should you ever need to describe your bowel movements to a healthcare professional, so instead of having to say your poop is soft and mushy with ragged edges, you can just say it’s a type 6.
Type 1 poop looks like round, small pellets. Despite their size, these little pellets can be hard to squeeze out. If you have type 1 poop, it means your poop has been in your digestive system for a few extra days and you’re constipated. Everyone can get constipated every now and then, but if your poop usually looks like this, it’s not great for your health. Your poop may be telling you to drink more water, get more exercise, and eat more fiber.
Type 2 poop looks like a lumpy log and takes a bit of effort to get out. This type of stool usually indicates mild constipation caused by dehydration, diet, or hormonal changes. Drink more water and eat more fiber to move things along.
Type 3 poop is shaped like a sausage with cracks on the surface and usually slides out easily. If you poop looks like this, you get a gold star! This poop is telling you that your digestive system is happy.
Type 4 poop is a smooth log or snake-shaped stool that’s easy to push out. This type of poop is quite literally the sh*t, the ideal poop, the best poop that you can poop. Whatever you’re doing to poop like this, keep it up.
Type 5 stools are soft blobs with clear-cut edges that are easy to push out…maybe a little too easy? This type of poop can be a sign of mild diarrhea, and usually means your food went through your digestive system too fast. Try adding more soluble fiber to your diet.
Type 6 poop looks like mushy blobs with ragged edges, and you may be having to go a few times a day. This consistency indicates mild to moderate diarrhea. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and replace lost electrolytes with fruit juices and soup.
Type 7 is pure liquid with no solid pieces, and you may have this a few times a day as this type of stool passes through the digestive system quickly. This is diarrhea and could be caused from an illness, food poisoning, food intolerance, or a medical condition. Stay hydrated and replace lost electrolytes. If you have diarrhea for longer than two days accompanied by headache, stomach pain, dizziness, or fever, you should consult your doctor.
Let’s talk color
The Bristol stool chart doesn’t include any description of color, but the color of your poop is also an indicator of health.
Almost any shade of brown is considered “normal” because the color of your poop is determined by what you ate and how much bile and bilirubin is in it. Bile is a yellowish-green fluid made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder and bilirubin is a yellowish-orange substance made through the process of breaking down red blood cells. The digestive system takes these fluids and mixes it with your food which usually makes your poop tan to dark brown.
Black stool is not ideal. Sure, it can indicate that you ingested something benign such as iron supplements or a bismuth medication, like Pepto Bismol. However, it can also signify bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal tract. Internal bleeding is a matter of concern, and if you’re unable to determine the cause of your black stool, you should schedule a primary care appointment immediately.
Chalky white is not a great color for poop. It could be an indication that your body isn’t producing enough bile, which may be caused by an infection or a blocked bile duct. Additionally, certain medications, including those used to treat diarrhea, may cause pale poop as a side effect.
Yellow poop can look a little greasy and emit a foul odor (worse than regular poop) which is likely due to consuming excessive amounts of fat. However, in some cases, it may indicate malabsorption, where your body fails to extract nutrients from food during digestion. Malabsorption can occur due to various reasons, such as illness, food intolerance, or diseases that impact the intestinal lining.
Having slightly greenish poop is generally not a cause for concern. It could indicate that your food is moving too quickly through your digestive system or that you consume a significant amount of leafy greens, such as spinach. However, if your poop appears bright neon green, the most probable cause is the presence of artificial colors from drink mixes, bakery frosting, or frozen novelties.
Red poop can be attributed to certain dietary factors, such as the consumption of beets, cranberries, red gelatin, or tomato juice. However, it's important to note that red poop can also indicate bleeding in your colon, which may be a sign of digestive disorders or colon cancer. Bloody stool may appear coated in red or may contain noticeable red spots. If you can’t attribute the red color to food you may have eaten, it's advisable to consult a primary care doctor promptly.
Healthy poo means a healthy you
Several factors contribute to healthy poop including diet, exercise, general health, medication, and stress. However, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can go a long way in producing the perfect poop (Type 3 or 4). Probiotics are also great to help digestion, gut health, and overall health.
Eat foods that promote healthy digestion
Incorporate colon-friendly foods into a diet that primarily consists of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eating a variety of foods helps your body obtain a broad range of vitamins and minerals for optimal colon health. Additionally, consuming whole foods makes it simpler to get the fiber necessary to move things along.
Drink lots of water
Water aids in breaking down food during digestion, allowing your body to extract all of the beneficial nutrients. If you're dehydrated, your body lacks sufficient fluids to create the correct consistency of your poop, resulting in constipation. To stay hydrated, ensure you drink fluids regularly throughout the day, especially when you're thirsty.
Move your body
Getting your body moving is a fantastic method to keep digestion moving, reducing the time food spends in your colon and aiding with constipation. And it doesn't take a lot of activity to support poop health. Even walking around for ten to fifteen minutes a day can be beneficial. Bonus points for aerobic exercise!
Stay current with colorectal cancer screenings
The current colorectal cancer screening recommendations suggest getting screened starting at age 45, or earlier if you have certain risk factors. Various screening options are available, including a colonoscopy and the FIT test, which is a poop test that you can do at home.
When to talk sh*t with your doctor
Sometimes, a bad bathroom experience is simply the result of a bad burrito, and sometimes constipation is caused by excessive cheese consumption. Bad sh*t happens—even in the best of digestive systems.
However, there are times when your symptoms may indicate a more significant problem, and you should consult a doctor. As a result, look for changes in your bowel habits that last longer than a few days, such as:
- Recurrent constipation
- Recurrent diarrhea
- Severe abdominal pain and indigestion
- Poop that is consistently very stinky and often floats
- Unintentional weight loss
- Red or black stools that cannot be explained by your diet. These poop colors may indicate that you have bleeding in your digestive system, which could be a symptom of a more severe condition. As a result, don't delay scheduling an appointment.
When you meet with your doctor, he or she will want to know how your digestive system is (or is not) functioning. Collecting this information can be as easy as keeping track of how frequently you go and the types of poop you have—there are even apps available to help you keep track.
Remember—no one likes to talk about it, but everyone does it. So stay regular, stay healthy, and don’t forget to flush.