Health

What Your Poop Shape Says About Your Health

Having a good poop is a lot more complicated than you might think.

It's easy to flush away our excrement without even thinking about it. But color matters, especially if you regularly notice black or red in your stool. Size and shape are also important, according to the Bristol stool chart, which academics created nearly 20 years ago to categorize the appearance of human feces into seven types. The Bristol stool scale was developed at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the late 1990s and is widely referenced by gastroenterologists.

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Get to know the Bristol stool chart.

Types 1 and 2 likely mean you're constipated, so it might be wise to consume some fiber and drink more water. Types 3 and 4 are the ideal poops to have because they're easier to pass. Type 4 is considered the best, so if this applies to many of your bowel movements, you're doing something right.

Types 5 through 7 are trickier, as they may be associated with diarrhea, which doesn't necessarily indicate a long-term health issue, but might be worth seeking medical attention if you're concerned or feel discomfort.

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"Runny, watery stool over a short period of time can mean mild food poisoning or an infection, for example," Brooke Gurland, a staff surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in the Digestive Disease Institute, wrote in a Cleveland Clinic post late last year. "But if you used to have solid bowel movements and now have diarrhea frequently, it could be a sign of an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — especially if it comes with other symptoms such as abdominal pain, blood, and weight loss."

Gurland added that it's important to pay attention if your stools dramatically change in form.

"If you used to have sizeable stools but now they are always pencil thin and hard to pass, consult your doctor. In certain types of colon cancer, the bowel gets narrow, and so do your bowel movements. Thin stools do not automatically mean cancer. But if they last a long time, and if going to the bathroom is difficult for you, your doctor may order a colonoscopy to rule it out."

It's also valuable to remember that stress can cause bowel changes, so keep that in mind if something is bothering you emotionally, and if you're also seeing worrisome bowel movements in the toilet.

Poop color can tell you a lot about your health.

Here is another poop chart that focuses on poop color as well as shape:

Poop color

Experts say that blood in your stool isn't good. But if you have red poop, keep in mind that you might have recently consumed red food that looks like blood. For example, spaghetti sauce or beets could make your stool appear red. Or the color red could indicate that you are bleeding because you feel overly stressed or suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, among other possibilities.

Green poop could mean your food isn't absorbing properly or that your morning smoothie has passed through your system.

As it goes with shape changes, experts recommend seeking help from a medical professional if you notice a potentially alarming pattern or shift in your poop color.

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