Pooping is one of the most relatable experiences in the world. Everybody does it. And, a lot of us have questions about it. So...without further ado, let's talk poop.
Experiencing a bowel movement, known colloquially as pooping, is your body’s way of getting rid of what it doesn’t need. You can also tell a lot about what’s going on in your digestive system based on your stool’s consistency and color.
Read on to learn what the different shapes, textures and colors of stool could mean for your gut health. But first, an important reminder: This is a basic guide. You should always consult your doctor about any health concerns.
Okay, ready? You’re about to enter a T.M.I.-free zone.
The Proper Position to Poop
Did you know how you sit to pass a bowel movement can impact your digestive health? Like how baseball players work on their form to hit the perfect home run, your toilet form can go a long way in improving the result.
Although there is no one “correct” way to position yourself on the toilet, individuals who suffer from constipation or who find it difficult to pass their stool can benefit from these position pointers.
- Sit with your knees higher than your hips - you can use a footstool to help maintain this position if you have a taller toilet.
- Lean forward with your hands resting on your knees or thighs to help straighten your spine
- Do not tighten your stomach, instead try to push your stomach muscles forward while taking a deep breath in
If you are still finding it difficult to pass a stool after trying these tips, contact your doctor to make sure your constipation does not worsen.
Shapes and Consistency
Doctors use the Bristol Stool Chart (above) to help patients describe their stool. These different types of poop can indicate how to tell if your gut is healthy.
Type 1: Tiny pebbles or rocks
Hard and difficult to pass, this pebble-like stool has likely been in your bowel for a long time - it’s a common sign of constipation. Even small amounts of poop like this can be a sign of constipation.
Your large intestine aids in concentrating waste by absorbing water. There are also muscle contractions that occur in the large intestine. If the contractions aren’t functioning correctly, then waste held in the colon can become extra concentrated, creating hard stool.
Type 2: Lumpy and sausage-shaped
This shape indicates mild constipation. Be sure to eat a sufficient amount of fiber and drink lots of water to keep your system moving. You might need to grab extra material for bathroom reading if you have this kind of poop.
Type 3: Sausage-shaped with cracks on the surface
This type is generally considered a normal, healthy poop. Its texture is soft, and it’s comfortable to pass. You know your digestive system works properly when you don’t need more than a minute to pass a bowel movement.
Type 4: Sausage or snake-shaped, smooth, soft
Health professionals consider this the healthiest bowel movement. Everybody’s poop schedules are different, but ideally, you should produce one of these every one to three days. This type shouldn’t take long on the toilet, so leave your smartphone at the door. There won't be a lot of time for bathroom scrolling with types three or four!
Type 5: Soft, separate pieces
Although they are easy to pass, you might feel rushed to get to the bathroom with this kind of bowel movement. Loose stool like this can mean you don’t have enough fiber in your diet and can make your stomach feel upset. It usually resolves itself in a few days. And in the meantime, grab a high-fiber snack or meal.
Type 6: Fluffy, mushy stool
Generally very loose and preceded or accompanied by an upset stomach, you will likely see ragged edges on this type of poop. Frequent, loose stools or diarrhea-like poop can cause you to become dehydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water along with fluids with electrolytes (e.g., coconut water, watermelon water, sports drinks and Pedialyte are all great examples) to replace the minerals you’ve lost.
Type 7: Watery, entirely liquid, no solid stool
This waste passes rapidly through your body and is very likely the cause of your upset stomach. Watery stool is a sure sign that your digestive system is not functioning correctly. Talk to your doctor if this is frequently happening. And, again, be sure to hydrate and drink plenty of electrolytes.
Other Types of Stool
Outside of the Bristol Chart, some people experience oily or greasy-looking stool, which typically signals your body may have a hard time digesting fats.
You also may have experienced a very thin stool. The thin stool is generally nothing to worry about, primarily if it only occurs on occasion. It’s usually produced from muscle contractions in the large intestine as it processes waste. However, if you always have a thin stool, it could indicate a blockage, and you should consult your physician.
What Color is Healthy Poop?
Among the many inquiries under the “is my poop normal” umbrella is the question of color.
So...what color is healthy poop? And what determines the color?
A combination of the color of the food you eat and the bile in your stomach (a yellow-green fluid that breaks down fats) dictates your stool color. Shades of brown, or even green, are considered healthy.
Green? Yes, green. If you eat a lot of green veggies, you might see green poop. Alternatively, the green could indicate that food is moving through your system too rapidly, and the green bile doesn’t have enough time to break down. If your stool is consistently green, call your doctor.
Artificial colors can also show up in your stool. Have you ever eaten blue cotton candy? Likely your poop appeared green or bluish-green after. Similarly, diets high in red-dye or beets often create red-colored poop. This discoloration is typically nothing to be concerned about and should go away rather quickly.
If you notice your bowel movements are bloody, black, or tarry, you should contact your doctor as they may indicate issues with your digestive system.
Microbiome testing (also referred to as a gut test) is an excellent option for those who want an in-depth look at their gut’s health. Your gut microbiome is the name for the billions of bacteria and other microorganisms that coexist with other cells in your lower intestine. Learn more about how to keep your gut microbiome healthy.
In a gut test, scientists study a sample of your stool to detect which types of bacteria and microorganisms are present in your microbiome. An imbalance of the microorganisms — known as dysbiosis — found during the gut biome test could be the cause of:
- Constipation and other bathroom issues
- Bloating or gas
- Difficulty digesting foods
Gut health tests help you learn more about your gut microbiome and how it affects your overall health. A gut biome test — especially the tests taken at home — does not replace a doctor’s assessment. Any time you notice changes in your health, consult your doctor first.
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Knowing Your Digestive System
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