Skip to content
Home » What Does Your Poop Tell You About Your Body

What Does Your Poop Tell You About Your Body

  • IBS

When it comes to conversations, there are few topics as avoided and overlooked as our bowel movements. While it may not be the most glamorous subject, a bowel movement is a normal bodily function that deserves attention. After all, your poop is your body’s way of eliminating waste from the food you consume, and understanding its characteristics can provide valuable insights into your overall health.

This is particularly true for people diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is a common gastrointestinal disorder. Symptoms of IBS may include bloating, abdominal pain, gas, reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and irregular bowel habits.

Woman sits on her phone while on the toilet, What Does Your Poop Tell You About Your Body

While it may seem strange to discuss poop, the truth is that the condition of your stool can tell you a lot about what’s going on inside your body when you’re dealing with symptoms of IBS. Whether it’s the color, consistency, frequency, or any unusual changes, these factors can offer important clues about your digestive system, nutrient absorption, and hydration levels, and even indicate underlying health conditions that may require attention.

In today’s post, we want to break the taboo surrounding the topic and provide you with a comprehensive guide to understanding your poop. We believe that by becoming more aware of this natural bodily function, you can gain a deeper understanding of your own body and make informed decisions about your health. 

What does your poop tell you about your body?

When it comes to poop, there are several types of stools that can be categorized based on their appearance, consistency, and other characteristics. Understanding these different types can serve as a baseline for what is considered normal and abnormal in terms of bowel movements. 

By familiarizing yourself with the Bristol Stool Chart (below), a visual representation of the various poop types, you can gain insights into your digestive health. From well-formed, smooth logs to loose stools or even hard, lumpy ones, each type can provide valuable information about your body’s functioning.

A woman's hand flushes a toilet, What Does Your Poop Tell You About Your Body

Not only can the different types of poop give you an idea of your digestive health, but they can also reveal potential issues or imbalances in your body. For example, consistently watery or loose stools may indicate an issue with nutrient absorption or an underlying gastrointestinal condition. On the other hand, hard, pellet-like stools may be a sign of constipation or inadequate hydration. 

By paying attention to the consistency, color, and frequency of your poop, you can learn a lot about your body and take appropriate action, such as adjusting your diet, seeking medical advice, or making lifestyle changes to promote better digestive health. Don’t underestimate the power of your poop; It can be an invaluable tool for understanding your body and maintaining overall well-being.

Let’s dive in!

Types of Poop

As mentioned, there are various types of poop, each with its own characteristics and implications. Recognizing these types can serve as a baseline for determining what is normal and what is abnormal in your bowel movements. By observing your poop at various times a day, you can gather valuable information about your body’s digestion and overall well-being.

The Bristol Stool Chart 

Bristol Stool Chart, What is IBS

The Bristol Stool Chart is a useful tool that categorizes different types of poop based on their appearance and consistency. Developed by doctors in the Bristol Royal Infirmary, this chart provides a visual reference to help you assess and understand your bowel movements.

By familiarizing yourself with the Bristol Stool Chart, you can gain insights into your digestive health, identify any potential abnormalities, and have a more informed conversation with healthcare professionals if needed.

The Bristol Stool Chart consists of seven different types of stool, ranging from Type 1, which represents hard, separate lumps, to Type 7, which indicates watery, entirely liquid stools.

Type 1: Separate Hard Lumps

This type of poop is characterized by small, hard, and lumpy stool. It may indicate a lack of fiber in your diet or inadequate hydration. It may be helpful to increase your water intake and incorporate more fiber-rich foods into your meals.

Type 2: Sausage-shaped, but lumpy

This type of poop resembles a sausage but is accompanied by lumps. It suggests a mild case of constipation and might be an indicator of an imbalance in your digestive tract. Ensuring a well-balanced diet with sufficient fiber, along with regular exercise, can help alleviate this issue.

Type 3: Sausage-shaped, with cracks

Poop that is sausage-shaped but has visible cracks is generally considered normal. It indicates a healthy balance of fiber and water in your diet. Keep up the good work!

Type 4: Smooth and snake-like

Described as smooth and soft, this is considered the ideal type of poop. It indicates a healthy digestive system and signifies that your body is efficiently eliminating waste.

Type 5: Soft blobs

Soft blobs are easy to pass but lack the defined shape of healthier stool types. They may suggest mild diarrhea or a slight disruption in your digestive process. Monitor your symptoms and consult a healthcare professional if necessary.

Type 6: Mushy consistency

Stool with a mushy consistency may be a sign of mild diarrhea. This could be attributed to various factors, such as a viral or bacterial infection, food intolerance, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you experience persistent diarrhea or other concerning symptoms, seek medical advice.

Type 7: Watery and entirely liquid

Watery or entirely liquid poop is often associated with severe diarrhea and should not be ignored. It may be an indication of an infection, food poisoning, or an underlying gastrointestinal condition. Consult a healthcare professional if this persists.

Womans feet in mid-calf socks on a tile floor, while she sits on a toilet, What Does Your Poop Tell You About Your Body

The Bristol Stool Chart and IBS

If you have been diagnosed with IBS, you may be able to work with your doctor and use the Bristol Stool Chart to identify your type of IBS. There are four types of IBS.

TYPE 1: IBS – Constipation

IBS-C means more than 25% of the time, your stool looks like type 1 or 2 on the Bristol Stool Chart, and less than 25% of the time looks like type 6 or 7. 

TYPE 2: IBS – Diarrhea

This is when, more than 25% of the time, your bowel movement looks like type 6 or type 7. And less than 25% of the time, your bowel movement looks like type 1 or 2. 

The two most common types of IBS-Diarrhea are A: Overflow Diarrhea and B: Flare-Up Diarrhea. You can learn more about IBS and IBS-Diarrhea here.

TYPE 3: IBS – Mixed bowel type 

In mixed bowel type, more than 25% of your bowel movements are type 1 & 2 on the Bristol Stool Chart. And more than 25% of BM are type 6 and 7 on the Bristol Stool Chart. 

TYPE 4: IBS – Unclassified

This is for patients who meet the diagnostic criteria for IBS, for symptoms such as bloating, irregular bowel habits, cramping, etc., but can’t be accurately categorized into the other 3 groups. 

A bathroom scene with a clean toilet bowl and sink

What Does the Shape of Your Poop Tell You?

The shape of your poop can reveal valuable insights about your digestive health. While certain shapes are considered normal, others may indicate an underlying issue. Here are some common poop shapes and their implications:

Pebble-like or hard lumps 

This shape suggests constipation, often caused by a lack of fiber or dehydration. Increase your fiber intake, and make sure to drink plenty of water.

Narrow or pencil-thin poop

Thin stools may indicate a potential blockage in the colon and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. This could also indicate a potential food intolerance to FODMAPs or other food, such as gluten in cases of Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity.

Sausage-shaped and smooth

A well-formed, sausage-like shape is a sign of healthy digestion. It suggests a balanced diet and adequate hydration.

Splat-like or fluffy poop

Poop that appears fluffy or breaks apart easily can be a sign of excessive gas or malabsorption issues. Pay attention to other symptoms you may be experiencing and consult a healthcare professional if necessary.

A woman smells a small bouquet of flowers, What Does Your Poop Tell You About Your Body

What Does the Smell of Your Poop Tell You?

The smell of your poop can also provide valuable insights about your digestive health. While poop is not known for its pleasant aroma, certain odors can indicate specific conditions.

The smell of your poop is influenced by the combination of gasses, bacteria, and other substances present in your digestive system. While some degree of odor is normal, unusual or persistent changes in smell may indicate underlying health conditions or dietary factors. Paying attention to the aroma of your poop can help you identify potential issues and take appropriate action.

Decoding Different Poop Odors:

Normal Odor

Normal poop typically has a distinct, but relatively mild odor. The smell is influenced by the breakdown of food particles, bile pigments, and the presence of bacteria in your digestive tract. A slightly unpleasant smell is considered normal, indicating healthy digestion and the presence of beneficial gut bacteria.

Foul or Strong Odor

If your poop emits a particularly strong or foul odor, it may be an indication of poor digestion, malabsorption, or an imbalance in gut bacteria. Certain foods, such as garlic, onions, or spices, can temporarily cause an intensified smell. However, if the odor persists or is accompanied by other digestive symptoms, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.

Ammonia-like Odor

An ammonia-like smell in your poop may indicate a higher concentration of nitrogen in your waste. This can be a result of protein-rich diets, dehydration, or impaired kidney function. If you consistently notice an ammonia-like odor or have concerns about kidney health, it is recommended to seek medical evaluation.

Sweet or Fruity Odor

A sweet or fruity smell in your poop can be a sign of malabsorption or the presence of excess sugar in your digestive system. It may suggest issues such as lactose intolerance, fructose malabsorption, or even diabetes. If you frequently experience sweet or fruity odors, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation.

Strong, Putrid Odor

A strong, putrid smell in your poop can be a cause for concern. It may indicate an infection or the presence of harmful bacteria in your digestive tract. Conditions like bacterial overgrowth, Clostridium difficile infection, or gastrointestinal infections can lead to this type of odor. If you experience persistent strong, putrid smells, it is crucial to seek medical attention for diagnosis and treatment.  

A woman holds up a color wheel to her brown pants, What Does Your Poop Tell You About Your Body

What Does Your Poop Color Tell You?

The color of your poop can vary significantly depending on your diet, medications, and overall health. While some stool colors are normal, others may indicate an underlying issue.

Brown

The most common and healthy poop color is a shade of brown. It indicates a well-functioning digestive system and a balanced diet.

Green

Green poop may be a result of consuming green leafy vegetables, iron supplements, or food coloring. However, if green stool persists without any obvious dietary reasons, it may indicate a faster transit time in your digestive tract or malabsorption issues. Seek medical advice if you are concerned.

Red

The presence of bright red or maroon-colored poop may be alarming. It could indicate bleeding in the lower digestive tract. However, keep in mind that certain red foods, such as beets or red gelatin, can also temporarily change the color of your stool. If you are unsure, it is best to consult a healthcare professional.

Yellow or clay-colored

Pale or clay-colored poop may be a sign of a problem with your liver or bile ducts. It suggests a lack of bile in your stool, which can occur due to liver conditions or bile duct blockage. If you consistently have yellow or clay-colored stool, seek medical attention.

IBS Poop Chart

To assist you in understanding your poop better, we created an IBS Poop Chart. Check it out at Poopedia.org.

This chart provides a visual representation of different poop types and their implications. You can download or share this chart to help raise awareness about the importance of healthy poop.

A roll of toilet paper sits next to two wrapped rolls of toilet paper

Conclusion:

Although poop may not be the most glamorous topic of conversation, it is a crucial indicator of your overall health. By paying attention to the types, shapes, smells, and colors of your poop, you can gain valuable insights into your digestive system and potentially identify underlying issues. 

Remember, if you have persistent concerns or troubling symptoms, it is always advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

Want to learn more about this topic? Head to Poopedia.org to see images of poop and figure out which type of bowel movement you’re most often having. You can also watch our FREE IBS Webinar or join IBS Freedom, a dietitian-led holistic program to help you manage IBS and get relief from symptoms like gas, bloating, pain, reflux, and irregular bowel habits once and for all.

3 mistakes to avoid on the low fodmap diet for IBS freedom

Summary

  1. Your poop is the body’s way of eliminating waste from the food you eat, and its condition can provide insights into your overall health.
  1. Understanding the different types of poop according to the Bristol Stool Chart can provide a baseline for what is considered normal and abnormal. 
  1. The Shape of Your Poop: The shape of your poop can provide additional insights into your digestive health. Different shapes may indicate conditions like narrow or pencil-thin stools associated with colon issues.
  1. The Smell of Your Poop: The smell of your poop can vary, but foul or excessively strong odors may indicate underlying digestive problems or bacterial imbalances.
  1. The Color of Your Poop: Poop color can vary depending on what you eat, but drastic changes or persistent abnormal colors may suggest certain conditions or malabsorption issues.
  1. IBS Poop Chart: A downloadable IBS poop chart can help you understand the different types and shapes of poop associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Coming soon!
  1. Poopedia.org to learn more about different types of poops with real pictures! 

References:

American College of Gastroenterology. (2021). ACG clinical guideline: management of irritable bowel syndrome. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 116(1), 17-44. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000001001

American College of Gastroenterology. (2020). ACG Clinical Guideline: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 115(2), 165-178. doi:10.14309/ajg.0000000000000501

Mayo Clinic. (2022). Stool Colors: What They Mean. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/stool-color/expert-answers/faq-20058080

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017). Gas in the Digestive Tract. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gas-digestive-tract

What are your thoughts? Share them with us!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *