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The shape, size and colour of your stool says a lot about your health, but how often do you check what’s going on down there? From discovering what a healthy stool shape is to advice on how to achieve a normal stool colour, we’ll guide you through this (sometimes) rough terrain.
Our downloadable poo chart is a quick and easy guide to help you tell your Type 1 from your Type 7. Plus, discover more about your health, hydration, and diet with 5 facts about stool colour and information about these 7 types of stool:
- Separate, hard lumps
- Lumpy and sausage-like
- Sausage shape with cracks in surface
- Soft, smooth snake or sausage
- Soft blobs with clear-cut edges
- Mushy consistency with ragged edges
- Liquid consistency with no solid pieces
What is a healthy stool consistency?
A healthy stool gives a good sign that everything in your bowel is working nicely, but what is a healthy stool? The best stool consistency is:
- Soft-to-firm texture
- All in one piece
What is a healthy stool passing routine?
Whilst everyone is different, there are a few signs that you have healthy stools other than the stool shape:
- Stools should be regularly passed1.
- Passing stools once or twice a day is considered healthy.
- The healthy minimum is three times a week.
What is a healthy stool? Other signs you have good poop
Your poo routine and your stool shape are obviously good to know, but here are a few other signs you have a normal stool:
- Colour: The colour of your stool can tell you a lot about your poop. A normal stool should be brown in colour.
- Ease of passing: We’ve all been there, feeling a little like it’s hard to poop. However, this isn’t normal. A healthy stool should be painless to pass.
- Smell: Much to the disgust of many, a great way to tell that you have a normal, healthy stool is the fact that it is strong-smelling.
Stools can change colour or consistency for innocuous reasons, like dietary causes or taking medication, but they can also change because of an underlying medical condition. 2 Being familiar with the usual shape, size, colour, texture, and regularity of your poo is the key to knowing if there might be an issue with your health and when it’s a good time to contact a medical professional for advice and reassurance.
What is normal stool colour?
The colour of your stool can tell you a lot about what’s happening in your body. As you now know, normal stool colour is any shade of brown, so this is an easy sign to tell you have healthy stools. 3 Some medications and foods can have an impact on the shade of your poo, as can some illnesses and medical conditions.
Here are some colours and causes, to help you decipher if you have a normal stool colour:
- Green stools. This could be a sign that your stools contain bile. Often this is a sign that food is moving through the intestine quickly – like in diarrhoea. Other causes of green poop include iron supplements and your diet. This includes green leafy vegetables and green food colouring in ice lollies or drinks.
- Yellow stools. This can indicate excess fat – this is particularly the case if the stools smell foul and have a greasy texture, too. There might be excess fat because of malabsorption due to a condition like celiac disease, or issues with producing bile or enzymes because of pancreas diseases. Request medical tests if this is something you’re experiencing.
- Black stools. This colour can be caused by black liquorice, black stout, iron supplements or bismuth subsalicylate from medicines like Pepto-Bismol. However, it can also be due to bleeding in the stomach or other parts of the upper gastrointestinal tract – particularly if the stools look like coffee grounds, or are sticky and tarry, and smell foul. You should always contact your doctor for advice if you have black stools.
- Red stools. You might find beetroot, tomato soup/juice, red berries or red food colouring/gelatine could be to blame for a reddish tinge – and your stool colour will return to brown once the food has moved through. That being said, it could also be a sign blood might be present – this time in the rectum, large intestine, or other parts of the lower intestinal tract, possibly due to haemorrhoids. Always get in touch with your doctor to investigate further if you experience red or maroon stools.
- White stools. If your stools are white, clay-coloured, grey or very light in colour, this can indicate a lack of bile, which might be caused by a bile duct obstruction or gallbladder or liver issues. However, it could also be down to taking large amounts of anti-diarrheal medication and those containing bismuth subsalicylate. Speak with your GP to get to the root of the cause.1,2,3
Did you know? It’s not just stool colour that can tell you about your health. The colour of your urine can also give you an indication of what’s going on in your body. Check out our urine colour chart for more!
Different types of poop
The Bristol Stool Chart categorises our stools into seven different types of poop:
- Type 1: Separate hard lumps. This stool shape is often described as being like rabbit poo, or marbles which are usually hard to pass. If your poo is like this, it suggests you’re suffering from severe constipation. You can help the situation by drinking more water, but it is sensible to think about seeing your doctor.
- Type 2: Lumpy and sausage-like. A bit like a bunch of grapes, the second type on the stool chart is made up of joined-up lumps of poop. This can point to mild constipation. As with type 1, if you get on top of your hydration, you should be able to help it improve.
- Type 3: Sausage shape with cracks in surface. The third stool shape is a more unified shape than type two on the healthy poop chart, a bit like corn on the cob. The cracked surface indicates your poop is probably healthy.
- Type 4: Soft, smooth snake or sausage. Picture a hot dog or a long snake and you’ll know what the fourth type of poo looks like. This stool consistency is considered normal and is easy to pass.
- Type 5: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges. A bit like nuggets, these individual lumps of poo are easily passed. However, if your stool resembles this type on the healthy poop chart, you might be lacking fibre. Increasing high fibre foods in your diet such as nuts, fruit, veg, whole grains and cereals could help.
- Type 6: Mushy consistency with ragged edges. These types of stool are said to resemble porridge in their fluffy pieces and indicate mild diarrhoea. Stay hydrated and think about seeing a GP if you’re unsure.
- Type 7: Liquid consistency with no solid pieces. This entirely liquid poop is sometimes compared to gravy. This is the runniest stool consistency on the poo chart and is usually described as severe diarrhoea. Contact your GP as soon as you can and stay hydrated.
How to achieve a healthy stool
Sometimes (in the case of illness for example), our stool shape is out of our control, but there are a few things you can do to help improve your stool type if everything else is healthy. Now that you know all about normal stool colour, shape and type, here are a few tips to help you achieve the healthy types of stool:
- Drink six to eight glasses of water a day.
- Eat plenty of fibre: fruit, veg, wholegrain bread and breakfast cereals.
- Exercise regularly.
- Go to the toilet as soon as you get the feeling you need to go.
- Increase your beneficial bacteria, either through probiotic yoghurts and drinks or probiotic supplements – they can help constipation and infectious diarrhoea.
Hydration, exercise, and fibre can all help with comfort in passing stools, but what about wiping them away? With everything that goes on down there, the least we could all do is use a soft and cushiony toilet roll like Cushelle, to make each trip to the toilet as comfortable as possible. For that really clean feeling, follow up with Cushelle Fresh Flushable Moist Toilet Paper Wipes.
Use toilet paper that’s strong as well as soft, like Cushelle Quilted – more absorbent and thicker than traditional toilet paper.
The reality is, normal is subjective and everybody is different. Despite this, there are some key pointers to help you discover whether you have a ‘normal’ stool colour, routine, and shape and with our types of poop chart you can be sure to know exactly what is going on when you head to the loo for a number two. Don’t forget, as with anything related to your health, if you’re unsure or worried about your stools, make an appointment to see a doctor.