What's the ideal poop? That's a question we've all asked ourselves at one point or another. It's also something that, by definition, cannot be answered definitively (because what would we compare it to?). But that doesn't mean we can't explore how your poop should look and feel on a day-to-day basis. To help you get there, I'll look at what different types of poops are while also identifying signs that you're not in tip-top shape.
So, what is the Bristol Stool Chart?
The Bristol Stool Chart was created by Dr. Brian J. Mooney, who was part of a team at the University of Bristol in England. It's important because it tells you whether or not your stool is healthy based on its shape and texture. If your stool doesn't fall into one of these categories and you aren't experiencing any other symptoms, then it's probably nothing to worry about. But if you are experiencing digestive issues, such as diarrhea or constipation (which means you struggle to poop) or blood in your stool, talk to your doctor right away—you may have an underlying health condition that needs treatment.
How do I use it?
There are seven different types of stools listed on the chart: Type 1 (formed), Type 2 (loose), Types 3–5 (semi-firm/hard/lumpy), and Type 6 (watery). You can also see where your stool falls by looking at its color and shape; for example: “Sausage-shaped but lumpy” would be type 4a or 4b, depending on whether there are flaky bits mixed in with smooth sausage pieces.
Poop comes in all shapes and sizes; there are seven categories, but here are the four most common types:
If you're suffering from constipation and have solid, hard lumps that are difficult to pass, it's likely your poop falls into Type 1. This type of poop is the least healthy and can cause issues such as chafing, fissures (cracks in the skin), hemorrhoids, or anal tears. While this may not sound pleasant, it's good to know what's going on inside your body so you can avoid it!
For those who don't know much about their own body parts: “Anus” is just another word for butt. And if you haven't been using the bathroom much lately—or ever—the shape of your poop will probably change from what we've described here because some harder-to-pass types require more water to become soft enough for a bowel movement.
This is mild constipation. It might be hard to believe, but this is actually the stool of someone who eats a healthy diet and has a healthy digestive system.
The sausage shape is caused by the colon "slowly" pushing out feces through your rectum, much like toothpaste coming out of an empty tube (or something). The lumps you see in the stool are probably undigested food matter—which can happen if you're eating too fast or chewing poorly—and aren't anything to worry about. Eat more fiber and drink more water, and voila! You'll be pooping like a champ.
A poop of this consistency is a sign that your digestive tract is working as intended and that you’re in good health. It’s also an indication that you have healthy bacteria in your gut, which further indicates that your diet is doing the job it needs to do: providing the right nutrients for those bacteria so they can thrive.
Poop type 3 may come as a surprise to some people who don't realize how much food affects their digestion. Again, eat more fiber and drink more water, and voila! You'll be pooping like a champ.
Type 4 is generally the most desirable kind of poop. This type is smooth and soft, with a diameter of about 3 cm (1 inch). It’s smaller than other types, and it slides out easily without much effort.
It’s also one of the easiest types to wipe clean once you’re done pooping.
The ideal poop is one that's soft, easy to pass, and has clear-cut edges. This is the type of stool you'll want to aim for. If it's too hard or dry, try adding some fiber, like a cup of berries or a spoonful of peanut butter, to your diet. Or drink more water! It can also help if you consume more fiber-rich foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits (but keep in mind that these are healthy foods, so don't go overboard).
If your stool is dark colored (like chocolate brown), you may have passed blood in your stool, which could mean something is wrong with the lining of your colon. Not sure? See a doctor right away!
Type 6 is a very loose stool with ragged edges and small, fluffy pieces. It may be the result of food poisoning or laxative abuse, but it's most often a sign that you've been eating too much fiber. If you're having this type of poop consistently, consult your doctor to find out if there's something more serious going on.
If you've been eating a lot of plant-based foods and green smoothies lately—or using lots of fiber supplements—the next time you go number two will almost certainly be a Type 6 poop (if not an even softer one).
If you have a watery poop that has no solid pieces and is entirely liquid, it's called diarrhea.* Diarrhea can be caused by many things, including infections, food poisoning, or even a side effect of certain medications.
An ideal poop is brown, soft, and easy to pass. It should come out at most two to three times a day with no pain or discomfort. And last but not least, it should not smell bad (though this is a subjective matter).
We hope this has helped you understand what a healthy poop should look like and that you feel more confident about your own bowel movements. It's important to remember that everyone is different in terms of their diet, lifestyle, stress levels, and so forth, so it's not always possible for us to reach the ideal state described above (even if we try really hard!). However, there are some simple steps that everyone can take towards improving their health, such as eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, drinking lots of fluids (but not too much alcohol or caffeine), and exercising regularly.