Every Type Of Poop Explained

Checking the toilet after pooping is something you perhaps remember doing as a toddler yet stopped after you grew older. Nevertheless, toddlers seem to be up to something, seeing that, according to experts, checking your poop can tell you a great deal about your health. You see, stools are a direct reflection not only of what you have eaten in the last few days but also of how your gut health is doing. In fact, they can provide ample insights that can range from minor dietary problems, such as whether you may have food absorption issues due to food allergies or intolerances, to sounding the alarm for other more severe conditions, such as colon cancer (per HealthDirect).

Poop can go from looking like small, hard lumps to being entirely liquid. Yet, a healthy poop lies in the middle of that spectrum. The same goes for its color. While it might appear in different shades of black, red, orange, green, yellow, or even white, a light to dark brown shade is what tells you your gut is doing well. However, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) notes that many different elements might influence your poop's consistency and color, not all of which signify disease. Thus, while monitoring your poop might not be glamorous at all, taking note of its physical traits might be just what you need to do to catch the differences between a passing change due to dietary reasons and a potential health problem early on.

What's the Bristol Stool Chart?

Now that you know that you should check how your poop looks, you may wonder what is the easiest way to do so without having to check online every time you go number two, and that is when the Bristol Stool Chart enters the chat. The Bristol Stool Chart is a visual tool designed to help you recognize what a healthy stool looks like. It does so by rounding up the most common types of stools and classifying them into seven categories based on their looks or consistency, which range from hard to watery. It also provides insights into the potential reasons behind their looks. For example, sitting at opposite ends of the chart's spectrum, poop types one and two indicate constipation, whereas poop types six and seven point towards diarrhea (via GoodRx Health).

Per the site, while this visual guide can help you identify deviations from your regular poop patterns and describe the status of your stools to your healthcare provider during a medical appointment, it is also a highly convenient tool for people who need to track their stools a little more closely, such as those with conditions like lactose intolerance, chronic constipation, or chronic diarrhea, as it might help them detect potential flare-ups or see whether their treatment plans need adjusting. In addition, the Bristol Stool Chart may also prove convenient for caregivers who look after populations that may not always communicate or notice stool changes, such as older people or children.

Type 1: Individual and hard clumps

According to the Bristol Stool Chart, type-one poop tends to look like individual and hard clumps, often resembling small pebbles or marbles (via WebMD), which is why this type of poop is also commonly referred to as pebble poop. Per Medical News Today, pebble poop is a clear sign of severe constipation. While a lack of fiber and water is often the first cause associated with type-one poop, there are various conditions and lifestyle factors that can be additional potential culprits, including chronic diseases like hypothyroidism or colon cancer, injuries to the surrounding area like pelvic floor or spinal cord damage, gastrointestinal problems, or even feeling anxious about pooping, taking certain medications or dietary supplements, and leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Besides having trouble passing these little poop pebbles, severe constipation can cause other symptoms, such as bleeding from the strain when you go number two, finding a bloody or white-looking mucus with your poop, fever, vomiting, having a hard time pooping without the aid of laxatives, unexplained weight loss, constant abdominal and lower back pain, and having trouble passing stools for three or more weeks (per Health). To treat severe constipation and prevent its complications, take laxatives or prescription medications to promote bowel movements or try biofeedback therapy to retrain your bowel muscles. In cases where a blockage is preventing you from passing stools, surgery might be required. However, some simple lifestyle changes such as eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, and exercising more might keep you from needing more extreme measures.

Type 2: Chunky and sausage-like

Unlike type-one poop, in which poop pebbles come out individually, type-two poop, as described by the Bristol Stool Chart, might look a bit chunky, almost as if the pebbles are all stuck together in one sausage-like shape (via WebMD), which is often a sign of mild constipation. According to Healthline, you might also tell when you're mildly constipated if you're having a hard time passing stools, feeling bloated from going several days without pooping, having stools that feel too large to pass without straining, and feeling like you can't empty your bowels in one go.

Per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), constipation can be the result of multiple health and nutrition problems, as well as lifestyle changes that unwillingly force modifications upon your bowel movements. For instance, besides being dehydrated or eating a low-fiber diet, conditions that have an effect on your hormones or metabolism can slow down your bowel movements, as can pregnancy, aging, or simply ignoring your body's cues when it tells you it's time to go. In addition, medications and supplements can worsen constipation, stating that some antacids, painkillers, anti-depressants, diuretics, and iron supplements might be especially problematic. For some people, mild constipation can be reversed by eating a fiber-rich diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and working out regularly. In contrast, others might benefit from bowel training, which consists of giving yourself time to poop at the same time every day (via NIDDK). However, you should seek professional help if the symptoms don't disappear.

Type 3: Sausage shaped with small cracks

Reaching the middle of the Bristol Stool Chart means that your poop is right where you want it to be, as it is considered to be on the healthier side. Per the chart, type-three poop is described as having the shape of a sausage that has small cracks along its surface (via GoodRx Health). According to Healthline, this shape is a direct reflection of how your bowels look on the inside. Therefore, since your poop should be on the softer side texture-wise, you can think of your intestines as a type of cast and poop as a play-doh of sorts.

Given its consistency, type-three poop should be easier to pass than poop types one and two, and seeing that this type is indicative of a healthy bowel movement, you should expect to feel the urge to go anywhere from three times per day to three times per week, all of which are considered normal. However, keep in mind that poop frequency is different for everyone. Thus, rather than comparing yourself to other people, one of the things that can tell you when something is amiss — besides stool consistency — is whether you notice any changes in your own pooping pattern (via Healthline).

Type 4: Smooth sausage- or snake-like

The Bristol Stool Chart's type-four poop is often described as the ideal stool, reflecting what is considered an exemplary healthy bowel movement. This one is pictured as having a sausage-like shape with smooth but firm edges (via GoodRx Health). Moreover, its consistency is reported to be even softer than type-three poop, yet not loose whatsoever, indicating an efficient digestion that was able to successfully break down nutrients, absorb them, and dispose of the waste without hassle or strain.

Besides taking a look at your poop and noting your bowel movement frequency or pattern, other signs can tell whether you have a healthy gut (via Everlywell), such as having steady energy levels throughout the day, which tells you that your body is, in fact, properly absorbing and utilizing nutrients. Also, the absence of pain or discomfort from excessive gas suggests that you might be clear of intestinal infections or digestive disorders. Furthermore, having mental clarity during the day (i.e., having no brain fog or difficulty concentrating) is another way to know your gut is doing its job, seeing that issues with nutrient absorption can negatively impact your alertness and sleep. Lastly, a well-balanced gut (which includes a healthy gut microbiome) helps you stay healthy even in high-stress environments by ensuring your digestion doesn't get affected by emotional factors. Eating gut-friendly foods such as whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean meats, and probiotic-rich foods is key if you're looking to maintain an ideal digestive state that produces type-four poop.

Type 5: Soft clumps with precise edges

Per the Bristol Stool Chart, type-five poop marks the turning point between solid stools and soft ones. Despite still having precise edges, this poop type's consistency lacks firmness, which means you're more likely to find small blobs of waste when peeking down the toilet, a shift that, according to the Cleveland Clinic, happens when following a low-fiber diet. Unlike poop types one and two, which are too hard from staying in the intestines for far too long, a low-fiber diet can cause your stools to move down your gut too quickly. This doesn't give them the time to bulk up and stay well-formed, which is one of dietary fiber's benefits when normalizing bowel movements (via the Mayo Clinic).

In addition to helping solidify stools, increasing your dietary fiber intake can help you improve heart health by lowering your blood cholesterol levels (namely LDL cholesterol, also known as the "bad" one). It also helps stabilize your blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight by providing feelings of fullness, and it can even lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. To increase your fiber intake and address type-five poop, the Mayo Clinic recommends adding more whole foods to your diet, such as legumes, nuts, whole-grain products, and whole fruits and vegetables instead of canned or juiced ones. However, it notes the importance of doing so gradually to avoid abdominal discomfort. Also, remember to drink plenty of fluids to keep you from having loose stools or becoming constipated.

Type 6: Mushy consistency with irregular edges

Having type-six poop is a clear indication that you are dealing with a mild form of diarrhea, as evidenced by the shapeless and mushy stools that have the distinctive irregular edges pictured in the Bristol Stool Chart (via the Cleveland Clinic). Experiencing mild diarrhea is often a sign that you might be struggling with chronic gut inflammation, which is commonly the result of digestive disorders such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease (per Harvard Health).

In time, chronic gut inflammation may damage the lining of your intestines, making it harder for your system to digest and absorb nutrients and causing the stools to rapidly move through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, leading to both nutrient malabsorption and this looser type of poop (via the National Library of Medicine). Luckily, there are multiple available approaches to managing chronic gut inflammation and helping you achieve an optimal poop type. First, following an anti-inflammatory diet filled with gut-friendly foods and probiotics while removing highly processed products and eliminating trigger foods and stressors can make a great start (via Healthline). Additionally, your healthcare provider might prescribe you medications to reduce inflammation. Lastly, surgery might be considered if the previous approaches don't show the desired results (per Harvard Health).

Type 7: Liquid consistency

At the very end of the Bristol Stool Chart sits the seventh type of poop, which is an entirely liquid poop without any trace of shape or form, indicating severe diarrhea (via the Cleveland Clinic). As with severe constipation, this type of diarrhea can result from numerous factors, ranging from viral, parasitic, or bacterial infections to GI diseases, food poisoning, food intolerances, or even some medications (per Healthline). Regardless of the cause, type-seven poop clearly states that your digestive system is very distressed and, thus, isn't able to work correctly. Therefore, it tells you that you need to take immediate action to avoid potential health complications, such as dehydration.

The first line of treatment to prevent diarrhea-led dehydration is to replenish the fluids you're losing through your stools with either plain water or electrolyte replacement drinks. Depending on the severity, some people might need to get their fluid balance restored through intravenous (IV) therapy. However, depending on what's causing it, you might need to pay your doctor a visit to treat the underlying cause and ensure the diarrhea stops for good. For example, diarrhea caused by parasitic or bacterial infections might require antibiotics or anti-parasitic medicines, whereas medication-induced diarrhea might warrant a medicine adjustment. Lastly, in the case of a GI disease, you might need to seek help from a specialist who can help get you on the right track towards healing your gut (via the Mayo Clinic).

Other types of poop to look out for

Believe it or not, the seven types of poop described in the Bristol Stool Chart are not the only ones you should be aware of when looking out for your health, as other types of poop also act as warning signs for underlying health conditions. Starting with stringy poop, it is described as narrow, flat, or ribbon-like poop that can tell you whether you're dealing with constipation from following a low-fiber diet or more severe conditions that can range from intestinal infections or fecal impaction to colorectal cancer (via Medical News Today). Furthermore, foamy poop, which is described as being frothy due to having too much mucus or fat, can be the result of a fat malabsorption problem, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), pancreatitis, or giardiasis (via Healthline).

Similarly, floating poop, which, as its name implies, is poop that doesn't sink, can happen if you're dealing with a fat malabsorption problem, IBD, GI infection, or pancreatitis, as it typically happens when your poop still contains large amounts of non-digested fats or high quantities of gas and fiber (per Medical News Today). Lastly, sticky poop, described as fatty-looking, thick, and difficult to flush, usually occurs if you have a stomach infection, pancreatitis, celiac disease, bloody stools, or have consumed large amounts of fatty foods, such as fried foods, butter, oil, full-fat dairy, or fatty meats (via Medical News Today). Regardless of the type, a poop that doesn't look like poop types three or four on the Bristol Stool Chart deserves a bit more attention on your part and probably a visit to the doctor.

Take a look at your poop's color

When it comes to monitoring your health via poop, staying on top of its shape and consistency might not be the only thing to look out for, as peeking at its color might give you a fuller picture. Since stools are the waste product of what you eat, their color is highly affected by everything you consume, from foods to beverages or meds. Nevertheless, while some colors may reflect the intake of a heavily dyed treat, others might tell you that you should run to your doctor's office. For instance, according to the Mayo Clinic, greenish to brown stools are considered normal because they are the result of varying amounts of bile in your poop. You may also produce green stools if your body doesn't get a chance to fully absorb nutrients (think diarrhea) or if you eat high amounts of green-colored foods.

In contrast, pale-colored poop may suggest a low bile content, which can be a result of bile duct obstruction, which would hinder the absorption of fats. Similarly, if you notice yellow stools that also happen to float and smell pretty bad, you might be dealing with a malabsorption disorder that's producing fatty stools. When dealing with black poop, you might be facing two different scenarios: one in which you've recently consumed iron supplements, black licorice, or Pepto Bismol, or another in which you might have upper gastrointestinal bleeding (somewhere between your esophagus and your stomach). Likewise, red stools might reflect the intake of beet, cranberries, red food dye, or lower gastrointestinal bleeding (anywhere in your intestines or rectum). In any of these cases, be sure to consult with your doctor right away.

Things that may affect your poop

Once you identify what your typical poop looks like and how often you go number two, it is easier to notice changes that might be affecting your poop and, consequently, your health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one of the most common triggers that might affect your poop is a change in your daily routine. This means that when you're on a trip, stressed, dehydrated, stopped working out, or increased the intensity of your training, you can expect it to affect your poop. Luckily, this also means that you can easily bounce back to a healthy poop once your body adapts to the changes or you get back on track with your usual habits.

However, many health conditions can also affect your poop, changing it to either side of the Bristol Stool Chart spectrum. In fact, while some might be more severe than others, changes in your stools are often the first sign or warning of a medical problem that needs to be addressed. Per the site, conditions that may affect your poop's shape, color, consistency, or frequency include fissures in your butthole, hemorrhoids, gut infections, pelvic floor issues, celiac disease, food intolerances, bowel obstructions, diverticulitis, endocrine, pancreatic, gallbladder, liver, or neurologic conditions, colon polyps, IBD, and colon cancer. Thus, try to make a habit of checking your poop, seeing that it can be a simple yet effective approach to safeguarding your health.