Is my Poop Healthy/Normal?
Ever looked in the toilet and wondered, hmmm, is my poop healthy/normal?
Everybody poops, but nobody likes to talk about it! We get it, poop is gross, it’s stinky, it’s embarrassing, and for many of us, it’s a huge source of anxiety! Any other nervous public poopers out there 🙋♀️? Us too!
Despite all of this, we need to start really paying attention to our poops, because let’s face it, they’re a pretty good indication on whether or not our insides are functioning properly! Colour, texture, and frequency should all be monitored carefully because any drastic changes in any for these properties can actually indicate some pretty serious health concerns that you’ll want to address right away.
The Healthy Poop
Before you can recognize an unhealthy poop, you need to know what a healthy poop looks like! To ensure you don’t lose your lunch, we figured showing you an illustration would be best and refrained from sharing a pic of the real deal!
Here you can see the holy grail of poops. This is what we all should strive for. This poop type is number 4 on the Bristol stool chart. Notice how smooth the sides are? This poop should slip out easily and hold its form in the toilet, even when flushed. It is described on the Bristol scale as ‘sausage or snake-like’ and should be around the diameter of a banana. The colour is your standard brown, which indicates it has the correct amount of moisture and nutrients in it as it is passed.
This is another example of a healthy poop. It’s still not quite as perfect as the previously discussed specimen, as there is still cracking which indicated not quite enough moisture. But it’s still sausage shaped, holds its form and is easy to pass. The Bristol Stool chart classifies this kind of poop as ‘normal.’ So, no need for concern if your poop has a couple of cracks in it! This poop is type 3 on the Bristol stool chart.
Type 1 and Type 2 on the Bristol chart are your typical run of the mill constipated poops.
Type one is small hard round balls, as shown below.
The above is type 1. These types of poops are the WORST if you’re the type of person that looks forward to your daily bowl movement. We’ve all been there, there’s a lot of straining involved and very little reward. If you’re having these types of poops it’s a sign of extreme constipation, which can lead to a bunch of health problems if left untreated. To avoid these nuggets of doom, make sure you’re getting your daily dose of fibre, and drinking the commonly recommended 2 litres of water per day. If there is still no change and your constipation persists, you need to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about over the counter options.
Type 2 is a bit better. This poop is at least one cohesive mass, but it is still a sign of constipation. See how the nuggets seem to have been glued together in your intestines?
Just like type 1, more fibre and water will likely help smooth this lumpy poop out and make your next poop easier to pass.
Type 5, 6 and 7 are watery poops, more commonly referred to as diarrhea. Type 5 is described by the Bristol chart as ‘Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (easy to pass).’
This one’s not too bad, but it’s not great either! Much like type 1 and two, these poops are a warning that you need to get more fibre in your diet. Fibre is a magical thing that both helps soften and bind stool. There are different types of fibre with different benefits so read up on what types of fibre you may need and where you can get them from here.
Type 6 is your body sending red flags! SOS we have a bug, evacuate!
This poop is described on the Bristol chart as ‘Fluffy pieces with ragged edges; mushy’ This poop comes with feelings of urgency and concerns of incontinence. Feelings of high stress can instigate a type 6 poo along with dietary issues.
And finally, type 7. Type 7 is the worst kind of poop, as it’s not really a poop at all at this point!
This poop has no solid matter at all. It is entirely liquid and frankly, these are the types of poops that like to masquerade as ‘gas’ which can lead to some messy situations. Typically, if you’re having very regular type 7’s, there is cause for concern. Prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration and even death if not treated properly, so make sure you see a doctor if you and type 7 are getting a little too well acquainted if you know what I mean.
Onto colour! This is a tricky one because often the colour of our poops is influenced by the things we eat. For example, a bright red poop is definitely cause for alarm, but not so much so if you had a beet salad for lunch! So just keep this in mind when monitoring your poop colours.
The classic brown poop. This is the best colour your poop could possibly be. If your poop is similar to the colour of milk chocolate just keep doing what you’re doing.
Green poops. You poop can turn green if you have a diet high in green leafy vegetables such as spinach. If this is the case, you get a huge thumbs up from us! However, if you haven’t been eating a lot of green foods, green poop is cause for concern. Your poop can be green due to a round of antibiotics, or parasites and bacterium such as salmonella, which might be causing your gut to work faster than normal. If stool moves too quickly through the digestive tract bile pigment can’t break down properly and your poop doesn’t have time to turn from green to brown.
Black poops. Black poops are typically cause for alarm. A black poop usually means there’s an excessive amount of dried blood in your intestines. These are often caused by hemorrhoids but can also indicate much more serious conditions such as IBD. Typically a black poop means you have some sort of GI bleed and you should absolutely talk to your doctor.
Red poops? More like red flags! If your poops are red it is likely due to the presence of blood. Again, if you’ve eaten a lot of beets or something with red food dye this could be the issue, but if not, make sure you seek medical help right away. Red poops are a sign of an internal bleed
White or Clay Poop
If you have a white or clay coloured poop, go to a doctor immediately! This is not a normal or healthy colour for poops. This colour is caused by a lack of bile excreted by the liver and is usually an indication of a more serious underlying issue. This could mean anything from a blocked bile duct to liver disease. Some medications can also cause white poops, so make sure to consult your doctor and inquire if this is a potential side effect of any kind of treatment you might already be on.
Yellow poop can indicate liver or gallbladder issues and often indicates that your digestive system is not digesting nutrients properly. It can also indicate chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, celiac disease and other possible underlying issues. If this colour is coupled with an especially foul smell, it could mean you have a malabsorption disorder. If your poop is yellow, do not let it mellow. See a doctor as soon as you can!
So now that you know the possible poop colours to watch out for, make sure you’re taking a peek when you have a bowel movement. Poops really are a good indication if something is going wrong in your body, so pay close attention! Though, before you panic, run through a list of foods you’ve been eating recently! If you chugged a gallon on blueberry juice the day before, that’s likely why your poop is blue! But if something doesn’t seem right, make sure you see a doctor as soon as possible.
There seems to be a lot of debate about what a healthy amount of poop is! Is it once a day? Twice a day? How many poops are too many? How many poops are not enough?
There is no magic number, however, doctors consider it healthy and regular to poop one or two type 4 poops a day. This is usually a good indication that everything is working as it should.
Most people have a regular pooping pattern if you will, and typically go around the same time each day and the same number of times.
There’s no cause for alarm if every once and a while you deviate from your regular pattern, however, if suddenly you aren’t pooping at all, or spending the entire day on the toilet, this obviously means something is wrong, and you should start thinking about talking to a healthcare professional.
Watch the presentation below to learn more:
This presentation, titled Microbes, Motility and More: How do I know if my Poop is Normal? features Kristina Campbell MSc and many special guests. This presentation was done at CDHF’s #TrendingNow: Putting the Biggest Gut Health Trends under the Microscope November-January 2022.
- What gut health means and the definition of ‘normal’
- How to rate bowel movements and what a healthy bowel movement looks like
- Facts on the average frequency of bowel movements
- An overview of gut motility and the “blue poo challenge”
- Basic info on your gut microbiome and how to keep your microbes well-fed