What the Types of Poop You Pass Can Tell You About Your Digestive Health

Learn which types of poop are considered #poopgoals, according to experts.

toilet paper with colorful geometric shapes
Photo: Adobe Stock

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then consider your poop the window into your digestive health. From how often you go to your poop's smell and physical appearance, your waste can offer hints about the state of your gut health.

The look and feel of your stool can vary day to day and depends on the foods you eat. But if your poop shape rarely looks "normal," it could be a key sign that something's up.

"Normal poop is a variable description but for the most part we tell patients to look for brown, soft to firm in texture, and easy to pass, [stools]" says Niket Sonpal, M.D., a New York-based internist and gastroenterologist. "The shape is typically a long cylinder, and there should be no pain or bleeding when passing stool." (Related: Wait, Can You Pee or Poop with a Tampon In?)

So, what if your poop shape doesn't exactly align with Dr. Sonpal's description? You can turn to the Bristol Stool Chart, a medical tool that classifies poop into seven groups, to decipher what the shape of your poop might mean. Ahead, learn more about the different types of poop and what poop shapes can tell you about your digestive health.

bristol poop chart

Poop Type 1 and Type 2

According to the chart, poop types one and two are typically shaped into individualized hard lumps or a cluster of lumpy stool. "Hard balls of stool that are difficult to pass (such as Bristol Type 1) are suggestive of constipation," says Adrienna Jirik, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic. "Diet, dehydration, medications, and stress issues are a few things that could contribute to this."

This type of poop may be difficult or painful to pass because of the lack of water in the stool if you're dehydrated. Dr. Sonpal recommends adding more water and fiber into your diet to help move things along. "Shoot for 25 grams [of fiber] a day at minimum," he says. "It takes effort and time to get to that goal. Try boosting it a little each day, and eventually you will hit your goals." (Related: How to Deal with Stomach Pain and Gas)

Exercise can also help with constipation, explains Dr. Sonpal. "Strong core muscle workouts help the gut promote poop outward," he says. "That's why you may poop after a run or pass gas in yoga."

Poop Type 3 and Type 4

"Types 3 and 4 are goal poops," says Dr. Sonpal. "This means you have a good microbiome, [are] hitting your daily 25 grams of fiber and [are] drinking enough fluids."

The shape of these stools is similar to, well, a sausage. They have minimal cracks and are easy to pass, which suggests you're getting enough fluids and fiber into your daily diet. Typically, the frequency of healthy bowel movements with these types of poop is no more than three times a day, explains Dr. Jirik.

Tips for achieving these #poopgoals include avoiding processed foods, drinking plenty of water, eating fibrous foods, and staying active, says Dr. Jirik. You can also try adding prebiotic and probiotic foods into your diet, such as kombucha or yogurt, explains Dr. Sonpal. "These introduce good bacteria into the gut and make your poop soft and fluffy."

Poop Types 5, Type 6, and Type 7

Stool types five through seven are similar in that they're all softer and closely resemble diarrhea. Type five stool may have some form of a blob, but will be mostly loose and easy to pass through. Type six is even more mushy while type seven is more liquid-y yet. The poop shapes on this end of the chart spectrum can mean a few things for your digestive health. Stool types five through seven can suggest food intolerances or sensitivities or more serious intestinal issues.

"Stool shapes and colors that could be red flags for inflammatory conditions (such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis) are watery or malformed stool with or without blood and mucous," says Dr. Jirik. "On the Bristol Stool Chart, these could correspond to types five through seven."

Chronic diarrhea could also be a sign of an infection that disrupts the lining of the colon, preventing the colon from doing its job of absorbing water, explains Dr. Sonpal. It can also mean irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is the most common of all the digestive issues, explains Dr. Sonpal. This means there are many things that can trigger diarrhea if you have IBS, and you may experience bouts of constipation as well, he says. "It's not life-threatening but can affect the quality of life. IBS is real and can ruin people's day." (Related: The Connection Between PCOS and IBS)

These digestive conditions are typically diagnosed with stool studies and a colonoscopy, and treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, or lifestyle changes, explains Dr. Jirik.

Not all loose or watery stool, however, is necessarily related to overt inflammation or IBS. "Loose, mushy stools (think: type five poop) is usually from lack of fiber or something new you ate," explains Dr. Sonpal. For instance, if your stomach churns, groans, or demands first dibs on the bathroom after eating ice cream, it could mean you're lactose intolerant and result in transient diarrhea, adds Dr. Jirik. Food poisoning can also result in poop shapes that reflect types six or seven.

"If you experience any abnormal poop described above or have any changes in your bowel habits, please call your medical provider for a consultation," says Dr. Jirik. While poop can change every day, if you have any concerns or the changes in your stool are ongoing, it's best to visit a medical professional.

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