Gaby Vaca-Flores, RD, CLE, gets *to the bottom* of what different types of poop mean. Learn what’s behind different poop colors and consistencies and how often you should poop for your digestive and overall health.
If you’ve ever found yourself looking into the toilet bowl and thinking, “What does healthy poop look like?” it’s a valid question. Maybe you’ve noticed that sometimes you have different colored poop or different shapes of poop. Other times, you might find it’s easy (and dare I say, enjoyable) to pass—while other times, not so much.
Healthy poop can be a sign that your digestive system is working properly, while abnormal poop is a signal that something is off. Read on to get to know what different types of poop mean and how to have healthy poop.
Why Poop Type Matters
Keeping an eye on your poop may not sound like the most pleasant piece of advice, but the importance of good bowel health can’t be stressed enough.
Poop can tell us a lot about what may be going on with your digestive system. Moreover, it can paint a broad picture of your health status, given that 70 percent of the immune system resides in the gut and your digestion is linked to everything from your mood to skin health. As a result, we often rely on the texture, shape, color, timing patterns, and even the smell of poop to give us small clues for what may be going on with your body.
What Does Healthy Poop Look Like?
We’re all unique—even when it comes to our poop. Normal poop can vary among individuals for several reasons, including dietary habits, supplement intake, and activity levels.
Healthy poop is about 75 percent water and a 25 percent mixture of protein, fats, bacteria, fiber, mucous, and cells.
To classify normal poop texture, health professionals use a widely accepted indicator known as the Bristol Stool Scale. This chart helps us break down the seven main types of poop and what they mean exactly.
The Different Types of Poop, According to Consistency
According to the Bristol Stool Chart, there are seven main types of poop, some of which resemble each other. The Bristol Stool chart is a clinical assessment tool to help classify feces into categories. Ken Heaton, MD, from the University of Bristol, developed the chart in 1997.
Here’s a quick guide to the different types of poop and what they mean.
Poop Type 1: Separate Hard Lumps
This type of poop is difficult to pass and may resemble animal droppings. It’s indicative of severe constipation.
Many factors contribute to constipation. Some of the best ways to relieve constipation include drinking more water, increasing fiber intake, eating magnesium-rich foods, and taking regular bathroom breaks. Adding a probiotic (like HUM’s Gut Instinct) could also help support a healthy gut microbiome and get things moving in the right direction.
Poop Type 2: Lumpy and Sausage-Like
This poop type has a firm consistency and is also more difficult to pass. It can indicate constipation.
Poop Type 3: Sausage-Like With Cracks In the Surface
This type of stool is easy to pass and indicates a normal, healthy poop. A sausage-shaped poop with some visible cracks that’s easy to pass is the gold standard when it comes to your bathroom break.
Word to the wise: Managing your stress levels can help you achieve more normal poops and improve gut health.
Poop Type 4: Smooth sausage or Snake-Like
As mentioned above, a few different types of feces are considered healthy. For example, a smoother, softer poop is also considered normal.
Poop Type 5: Soft With Clear-Cut Edges
If you find your poop is soft but still well-defined, it could be an indicator that you need more fiber in your diet. Fiber helps to bulk up stool and encourages regularity. Soluble fiber also helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut, lowers cholesterol, helps with hormonal balance, and more.
Poop Type 6: Soft or Mushy
This type of bowel movement indicates mild diarrhea. It can range from being easy to pass to causing a more urgent need to pass. If you’re prone to this type of poop, be sure to stay hydrated. Also, prioritize eating whole foods instead of processed or spicy foods (both of which can cause diarrhea).
If this type of poop becomes chronic for you, consider seeing a doctor, as it may be a sign of something deeper going on in your gut.
Poop Type 7: Liquid
A fully-liquid poop indicates diarrhea. You’ll likely feel an intense urgency to pass. This type of poop can cause dehydration. In addition to the advice for mushy poop above, you may want to follow an elimination diet to discover any food sensitivities that could be triggering this bowel movement.
What Does the Color of Your Poop Mean?
Food, supplements, and some medications are the main influences behind color variations in your poop. Below, we break down the different colors of poop and what they mean.
If you have brown poop, your bile content is likely to blame. Bile content in poop is an overlooked contributor to color.
Bile is a fluid created by and released from the liver. Its main function is to help break down fat from our diet, but it can also help your body get rid of toxins.
Bile’s slight yellow and green hues—coupled with colors from the foods you eat and the supplements or meds you take—can create poop that’s many different shades of brown, and sometimes green. This type of poop is considered normal.
On the flip side, too much bile in the poop can cause a strong green hue.
In most instances, this is because food is simply moving through the digestive tract too fast. This doesn’t give the bile enough time to break down dietary fats.
Overeating, stress, and gut microbiome imbalances are commonly responsible for green poop. However, frequent green poop can sometimes be related to more serious health conditions. For some, green poop can also indicate a high-vegetable diet or a diet high in green food coloring. In these cases, green poop is acceptable as long as it happens sparingly, such as following a jump in your veggie intake.
Asking yourself, “Why is my poop black?” Iron supplements and OTC meds are often the culprits behind black stool. Surprisingly, eating black licorice can also cause stools to darken.
On the other hand, black, tar-like stool with a strong odor can indicate more serious health issues that should be looked into by a doctor.
The presence of blood in poop is the main reason why it can appear red. Most often, it’s related to constipation. Constipation is generally the result of a diet low in fiber, whole foods, and water.
Additionally, some women may also experience red-colored poop during their period. A less common reason for red stool is eating foods with strong red hues, such as beets and drinks with red food dye.
If none of these reasons apply and you frequently experience red stools, check in with your doctor right away.
Light yellow, gray, clay-colored, and very light brown stools often indicate that your gut function is off. In this case, consult your doctor ASAP.
How Many Times a Day Should You Poop?
Knowing how frequently you pass stool is just as important as knowing its type and color. However, there’s no definitive or ideal number of times for how often you should poop.
Generally, pooping one to three times per day is a good goal for most people. It should also be noted that normal poops are fairly easy and quick to push out. For instance, it should typically take less than a minute or two to pass a healthy bowel movement.
Some people may only poop around three times per week and still be considered to have healthy digestion as long as they don’t experience any other discomforts.
If you are constipated, you may have less than three bowel movements per week and experience pain and discomfort in the process. If this sounds like you, you’ll want to focus on adequate hydration and eating more fiber.
When to See a Doctor
Still wondering if you have healthy poop? If any or all of these three indicators apply to your poop, then it’s best to see your doctor.
- Foul smell: Most poop smells unpleasant. However, strong, foul-smelling poop may be a sign of underlying health issues.
- Unusually-colored poop: This can be a sign that something may not work as it should. Simply put, look out for red, black, yellow, or pale stools that are generally unrelated to food, supplement, or medication intake.
- Infrequent bowel movements. If you often have difficulty going at least once per day, it’s best to see a doctor or registered dietitian to make appropriate dietary and activity modifications.
How to Support Healthy Poops
Now that you what different types of poop mean, the goal is to have regular, healthy bowel movements.
All things considered, consistently practicing healthy habits will support normal poops. As a dietitian, I recommend the following pieces of advice:
- Create a distraction-free environment. Limit phone or tablet usage while on the toilet.
- Define your normal. As mentioned earlier, everyone’s own version of normal poop may vary. Be in tune with what looks healthy for you on most days.
- Eat a diet rich in high-fiber foods. Opt for whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. On average, men should aim to eat 38 grams of fiber daily and women should aim for 25 grams daily.
- Nourish your gut microbiome with good bacteria. You can optimize your gut and digestive health by focusing on microbial diversity. We like incorporating a daily probiotic and consuming fermented foods and drinks.
- Boost hydration. Drink plenty of water and consume water-rich fruits like cucumber, watermelons, apples, and pears to help support bowel movements.
- Move it along. Since a sedentary lifestyle may let things get stuck or backed up, be sure to exercise to help move food through your digestive tract.