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Color of your poop chart: Stool Color Changes and Chart: What Does It Mean?


Types of Poop: Appearance, Color, Consistency

Everybody examines their poop from time to time. It’s normal and appropriate to peer down into the porcelain throne and take a look at what just came out of our body.  

While it can be a topic too taboo for some, the fact remains that the look of our feces can tell us important information about our digestive health. But without a guide to show us the way, we might be tempted to jump to all sorts of conclusions—some of which may even leave us overly concerned or afraid. Fortunately, medical science has come to the rescue in recent decades, and now we have a useful and comprehensive tool for checking our stool. 

What is the Bristol Stool Scale?

In 1997, Ken Heaton and Stephen Lewis, doctors from the Bristol Royal Infirmary in Bristol, UK, developed a classification chart that would serve as a diagnostic and communication tool for patients with gastrointestinal maladies. The chart, now known as “the Bristol Stool Scale” (also sometimes referred to as the “Bristol Stool Form Scale” or the “Bristol Stool Chart”) and published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, was the result of robust research into the dietary habits of a sample group of volunteers.

The original proposal from Heaton and Lewis was that the form of the stool should reliably demonstrate the transit time it takes the stool to pass through the colon. While more recent research has questioned the usefulness of some parts of the chart, it is still widely used and respected by medical practitioners all over the world.  

The scale is particularly helpful at giving concerned patients a great overview of what ideal stools should look like. It does this by dividing the potential stool forms into seven types along a continuum of consistency and shape: 

  • Type 1: Separate hard lumps that are difficult to pass
  • Type 2: Shaped like a sausage with smooth, irregular bumps
  • Type 3: Shaped like a sausage with a smooth but cracked surface
  • Type 4: Shaped like a smooth and soft sausage with no cracks
  • Type 5: Soft blobs with clear cut edges that are easy to pass
  • Type 6: Mushy stool—fluffy pieces with ragged edges
  • Type 7: Primarily liquid with no consistent solid pieces

What is Normal Poop?

The Bristol Stool Scale considers Types 3 and 4 to be “normal” or generally healthy poop. All things being equal, your poop should ideally be shaped like a sausage or log with a smooth surface and be relatively easy to pass. While the chart doesn’t speak specifically to frequency, doctors commonly indicate that a healthy pattern of bowel movements should be anywhere from one to three times per day to three times per week. 

By contrast, Types 1-2 on the scale typically indicate constipation, the inability to have a bowel movement. There are a variety of reasons why you could be constipated—most of which are temporary and non-serious. Types 5, 6, and 7 on the scale are the opposite situation and typically indicate some gradation of diarrhea; this, too, can be caused by a variety of factors. 

One of the greatest benefits of the chart is the ability to have a common language to use when speaking with your doctor. If you have been experiencing one of the non-normal poops on the list, you can use the chart to help you explain to the doctor what you see when you look in the toilet, and that will better assist your doctor in making a diagnosis.   

What Does a Person’s Poop Color Mean?

Beyond the shape and form, many people ask about the color of their poop. What should it look like? What is normal? The Bristol Stool Scale doesn’t comment on color, but other research has shown that the color can be an indicator of a number of conditions: 

Brown: As you probably expected, brown is good. You might see various shades of brown, but really anything in the brown realm is a good indicator of bowel health.

Green: While some slight green tinge can be normal and even expected, poop that is vividly green can be either a sign that you’ve been eating a lot of green foods (like spinach) or that your poop is passing through your digestive system too quickly.

Black: This can be a sign of a variety of situations, from intaking too much iron or bismuth to bleeding in your digestive tract. It can even be as simple as eating too much black licorice.  

White: Anything close to pale or white, including a color akin to clay, can indicate excessive bile in your poop; extra bile can show up if the duct from your gallbladder is blocked for some reason.  

Yellow: Yellow poop sometimes goes along with it being greasy and with an especially pungent odor; this usually means there is an excessive amount of fat in the stool. It can also be a sign of celiac disease, a condition involving the malabsorption of nutrients from your diet. 

Red: Apart from some intensely red-colored foods (like tomato juice, beets, or berries), the most likely explanation for red poop is blood. Bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract can be caused by a variety of conditions, so it is wise to see a doctor if you see red poop and can rule out red foods.  

What Are the Signs of a Healthy Bowel?

An informed and inquisitive observation of one’s poop can provide plenty of information for an informal check of your bowel health. When you look down after your next bowel movement, you ideally want to see a smooth, brown, sausage-shaped log a few inches in length. Moreover, if that’s happening frequently throughout the week, then you can rest assured that your bowel health is in tip-top shape. 

If you see a few irregularities, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a big problem, however. Look at the Bristol scale and evaluate what it might indicate about your diet and bowel habits. Maybe you need less fat in your diet. Or more fiber. Or you might need to be drinking more water. 

Healthy Poop, Healthy Life

We all look at our poop in the toilet bowl and wonder what it’s telling us. If you pay attention and heed the wisdom of the Bristol Stool Scale, you’ll be well on your way to noticing when something isn’t right. Your bowel health is important to your overall health, and it is directly related to a variety of other conditions you might be susceptible to in your life.  

As with any potential health condition, though, the important thing is not to panic if something seems out of the ordinary. This is also why it’s important to make regular visits to your doctor; the more you’re aware of how your body is functioning—and when it seems to be “malfunctioning”—the better you’ll be able to determine when you need to bring a concern to the doctor’s attention.  

Talk To a GI Doctor in North Carolina

If you are seeing a stool status that doesn’t seem right, like a change in diameter—especially if it has been going on for more than a week or two—make an appointment to see a specialist. The professional doctors and staff at Carolina Digestive Health Associates are experts in bowel health and can help you figure out what your poop is trying to tell you.

What Your Stool Color Says About Your Health? The Poop Chart

The subject of stool warrants plenty of attention. That’s because your poop color, smell, and shape say a lot about your health.

Basically, your bodily emissions are whatever is left behind once your digestive system completes absorbing nutrients and fluid from the foods and drinks you consume. During a lifetime, the average person produces roughly five tons of poop. The majority of waste discharged from your bowels is about 75 percent water, with the remainder being both dead and live bacteria; undigested food particles; miscellaneous cells; fiber; mucous; proteins and salts; as well as other matter.

On average, though, the human body needs between 18 and 72 hours to convert food into this waste before passing it out of your system. While some people have a bowel movement once daily or three times per week, those who could be described as more “regular” do so as many as three times every day. Of course, bathroom habits vary due to diet, exercise, travel, stress, medications, hormonal fluctuations, sleep patterns, illness, surgery, and childbirth. And the ease with which you move your bowels is far more important than frequency. Generally, you needn’t push or strain yourself during the process. It should be as effortless as peeing or passing some gas.

On the other hand, when the frequency of your defecation is reduced while the transit time  is prolonged, you may be constipated. Not fun! This results in dry, hardened excrement. Those over the age of 65 run the risk of becoming constipated the most and should therefore pay closer attention to their stools.

The Mayo Clinic reports that 26 percent of women and 16 percent of men 65 years and older consider themselves constipated. In people over 84, the reported incidence is 34 and 26 percent, respectively. You may be surprised to learn that your predisposition to constipation is not a direct consequence of normal aging. It’s most often caused by medications that affect nerve conduction and smooth muscle function. The gears in your colon just don’t work as efficiently. Other factors that put seniors at risk of constipation include low-fiber diets, limited fluid intake, impaired mobility, and cognitive disorders.

The problem is, chronic, untreated constipation can cause a serious medical condition known as fecal impaction. Laxatives in these cases should be avoided and taken only as a final resort – and for a short period only. Frequent use can weaken the bowel wall muscles and affect nerve function, tampering with your body’s operating systems.

Reading your poop – The Poop Chart

Do you remember when you were in summer camp, when you were told before going to the bathroom, “If it’s brown, flush it down”? Well, you should always stick around for a moment before you do.

The smell, color, consistency, and shape of your fecal matter can reveal how your gastrointestinal tract is working and offer unique insight into your health.

Changes to your stool may be harmless and even temporary, suggesting digestive issues, lactose intolerance, or an adverse reaction to fructose or gluten. But other times, they may indicate problems as serious as infections or cancer, calling for immediate medical attention and intervention.

Here’s a handy stool chart – the Bristol Stool Scale – developed by Dr. Ken Heaton in Bristol, England and first published in 1997. It is designed to classify the various forms of human stools into seven categories, so you can make some notes on your own poop.

Poop measured: The Bristol Stool Scale chart

Constipation: Type 1, 2

Harder, pellet-like poop reveals varying degrees of constipation. And so-called “floaters” typically happen when the body improperly digests fat and nutrients. You know the ones! This stool has low water content, making it difficult to pass. It can also be scratchy and may cause irritation or damage to the anal passage. What to do? Drink more water, increase the fiber in your diet, and get active! Bowel movements are facilitated by walking.

Healthy stool: Type 3, 4

Generally, your stool should appear brown, smooth, and soft‚ sometimes lumpy, but resembling a sausage or a snake. There’s no need to read the paper for long on the toilet because you’re able to do the job with ease, no frowning or straining. Since this is a normal stool, you’re good to go. However, you could drink more water, increase your fiber, and boost your exercise to counter stress and promote healthy bowel movements.

Diarrhea: Type 5, 6, 7

Incredibly loose stools, on the other hand, can occur whenever you take in too much milk, caffeine, vitamin C, magnesium, and antibiotics, as well as really bad food. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and general sickness can also lead to the same. Type 5, soft blobs with clear-cut edges is borderline normal stool, so, again, keep hydrated and eat more fiber-rich fresh fruits and veggies. Fiber helps to sweep the colon, feed our healthy intestinal bacteria, and slow the digestion of food so that we stay full longer and our blood sugar remains at a healthy balance. Types 6 and 7 stools spell trouble and possible infection. Drink plenty of liquids to counter the dehydration; rehydration salts can be helpful to restore lost electrolytes. Definitely contact your doctor if it continues.

As far as pus- or mucus-containing stools are concerned, these can mean an infection, inflammation, or irritation of the gastrointestinal tract. But they can also reveal more serious digestive conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, IBS, and colon cancer.

Narrow stool, which happens every so often, is not problematic. But a thin stool could be symptomatic of IBS, for instance. And pencil-thin stool may reveal a colon obstruction possibly brought on by colon cancer.

Bad odor

The smell of stool is objectionable under normal circumstances. But a relatively bad odor should not be ignored. It is linked to a host of health problems: malabsorptive disorder, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, chronic pancreatitis, and cystic fibrosis (CF), which causes your body to produce mucus that is rather thick and sticky. Mostly affecting infants and toddlers, this gene-related disease brings about both life-threatening lung infections and significant digestive issues.

As far as flatulence is concerned, not only is passing gas normal, it’s a strong indication that trillions of gut bacteria are hard at work doing what they do best. On average, people pass gas about 14 times daily. That’s roughly one to four pints. And 99 percent of this flatulence is completely without odor.

What your stool color says about your health

The color of your stool says a great deal about you, too. If your excrement is reddish in color, it could mean that you’re eating way too many watermelons, cherries, licorice, or beets. If it’s black and tarry, you may be taking too many iron pills or Pepto Bismol. But if your stool remains black in color, you may have a bleeding ulcer or upper gastrointestinal tract.

On the other hand, bloody streaks on the outside of your stool may be the direct result of hemorrhoids or a strained sphincter due to constipation. White or grayish excrement may either reflect a lack of water or too many antacids or calcium supplements in your system. Pale foods, such as rice, can cause this, too. Mucus in the stool can give it a whitish appearance, possibly caused by inflammation or benign conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Far more seriously, though, such stools may be signs of a problematic gallbladder or liver, or fat malabsorption, as with pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.

Yellow stool, meanwhile, may indicate that food is passing through your digestive tract too quickly or your bile output is insufficient; a gallbladder dysfunction causes the improper handling of bile.

Yellow stool is also seen in people who have the contagious disease Giardiasis, which is caused by a microscopic parasite, and gastro esophageal reflux disease – or GERD – which is when stomach acid comes up from the stomach and into the esophagus, adversely affecting it.

Finally, green stool may occur if you consume too many leafy green vegetables or food containing the same coloring, such as in ice cream, cake frosting, and jelly beans, etc. It can also be brought on by excessive amounts of iron or supplements – natural or otherwise –in your system. Usually, iron-rich foods will stain excrement if your body doesn’t absorb it all. But a stomach virus can also lead to stool that is slimy and green.

Stool color What it may mean Possible dietary causes
Green Food may be moving through the large intestine too quickly, such as due to diarrhea. As a result, bile doesn’t have time to break down completely. Green leafy vegetables, green food coloring, such as in flavored drink mixes or ice pops, iron supplements.
Light-colored, white- or clay-colored A lack of bile in stool. This may indicate a bile duct obstruction. Certain medications, such as large doses of bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol) and other anti-diarrheal drugs.
Yellow, greasy, foul-smelling Excess fat in the stool, such as due to a malabsorption disorder, for example, celiac disease. Sometimes, the protein gluten, such as in breads and cereals. But see a doctor for evaluation.
Black Bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, such as the stomach. Iron supplements, bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol), black licorice.
Bright red Bleeding in the lower intestinal tract, such as the large intestine or rectum, often from hemorrhoids. Red food coloring, beets, cranberries, tomato juice or soup, red gelatin or drink mixes.

How to poop for the better

The good news is that you can track these changes in your stool. And by simply adjusting your everyday diet and lifestyle, you can do something about them while resolving gastrointestinal problems.

Eat for your colon health! Your diet should include whole foods, such as organic vegetables and fruits that provide essential nutrients and fiber.

Cut out artificial sweeteners, excessive amounts of caffeine, and sugar – especially fructose – chemical additives and processed foods because they are all detrimental to your gastrointestinal functions.

Boost your intestinal flora by adding naturally fermented foods into your diet, such as sauerkraut, pickles, and kefir, especially if you’re not receiving positive bacteria from the foods you eat alone.

Try increasing your fiber intake by consuming about 35 grams psyllium and freshly ground organic flax seed per day, for example.

Be sure to stay well hydrated with fresh, pure water. Get plenty of exercise. Avoid the painkillers codeine or hydrocodone, which will slow down your bowel movements, and antidepressants and antibiotics, which can also disrupt your gastrointestinal functions. Consider squatting as opposed to sitting: squatting actually straightens your rectum and relaxes your puborectalis muscle, helping you to empty your bowel without ever straining, as well as relieve constipation and hemorrhoids. Even consider getting yourself a bidet.

So if you are someone who quickly flushes without ever looking into the toilet bowl, you may wish to slow down and have a peek the next time around. The smell, color, consistency, and shape of your fecal matter could say a whole lot about your digestive tract, not to mention your overall health. And remember: If you see any consistent, dramatic changes in your waste, be sure to visit your doctor straightaway.

What Does the Color of Your Poop Tell You?

Brown Stool

Poop owes its normal, brown color to bile, a substance produced by our liver that helps us digest fats, says Dr. Nandi. (Though bile is naturally green, its pigments change color to yellow and brown as they travel through your digestive system and are broken down by enzymes.) If your excrement is brown and solid, you have no obvious reason for concern.

Green Stool

Green poop is “very much in the realm of normal,” says Arun Swaminath, MD, director of the inflammatory bowel diseases program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. It is usually attributed to something you ate, adds Nandi. Eating lots of green, leafy vegetables like spinach or kale — rich in the pigment chlorophyll — will easily give your feces an emerald hue.

White Stool

Whitish, clay-colored poop is caused by a lack of bile, which can stem from a blockage of bile ducts. Gallstones are one possible culprit of such an obstruction, says Dr. Swaminath. In addition, “Sometimes people can see white mucus on top of normal colored stool which has a whitish coating,” he says. This can be normal or a sign of a Crohn’s flare. Crohn’s disease causes ulcers in the intestines, which produce mucus in the stool. Alert your doctor when you notice mucus in your bowel movements, especially if it’s more than usual.

For people without Crohn’s, white poop along with abdominal pain, fever, or vomiting means they should call the emergency services. But if you see white poop without any of the aforementioned symptoms, you can wait to see a doctor, Swaminath says.

Yellow Stool

Yellow poop is another potential indicator of bile shortage, which, again, may be related to obstructed bile ducts. It can also mean that the pancreas is not secreting enough enzymes needed for digestion. “Oftentimes, a few questions about one’s health and medical history by a medical professional can suggest the underlying reason with tailored testing to confirm the diagnosis,” says Nandi. But these aren’t the only possible explanations. When people prep for a colonoscopy, their stool becomes diluted and can also turn yellow, says Nandi. This is a normal phenomenon that shouldn’t cause any concern.

Yellow poop can also arise from excess fat in stool, often due to an inability to break down foods, such as gluten for someone living with celiac disease. If you think this may be causing yellow stool, you should consult your doctor.

Black Stool

If you have ever taken iron tablets or Pepto-Bismol, you have likely experienced this common, though harmless, side effect: black poop. Indeed, certain ingredients in some foods or medications are the most common reason behind your stool turning dark. Even eating a full pack of Oreos can have this effect, says Nandi.

If your poop is dark and solid, you probably have nothing to worry about. But black poop with a more liquid, tarry consistency and a particularly pungent smell is a sign of bleeding in the gastrointestinal system. This issue “may require emergency evaluation with endoscopy,” says Swaminath.

Bright Red Stool

Bright-red stool often results from consumption of scarlet-colored foods or drinks like beets or tomato juice, but it might also indicate bleeding. Small amounts of blood in the stool may be from hemorrhoids, colon polyps, or anal fissures, especially if you are also experiencing pain when pooping, says Swaminath. “Larger amounts of bleeding require hospital admission and further evaluation, often with colonoscopy, to identify and treat the source of bleeding,” he says.

One of the hallmark symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease is bloody diarrhea. Although this is a common symptom of the disease, it’s not normal, and you should tell your doctor how much blood is present in your stool.

Additional reporting by Max Lee Onderdonk

What the colour of your poo says about your health…from green to red and what’s normal

IT’S not everyone’s first choice of conversation, but it’s an important one.

Knowing what your poo should look like can tell you a lot about your health – and can be the first sign of a serious disease.


The Bristol Stool Chart indicates what your poo should look likeCredit: Wikipedia

Your number twos can vary in colour and consistency, depending on several factors like your diet, digestive health and underlying illness.

You may notice slight changes on a day to day basis, but more drastic changes in your bowel movements are a red flag sign for bowel cancer so make sure you see a doctor.

What colour should your poo be?

A healthy poo should be a medium brown, but that doesn’t mean it won’t sometimes be another colour.

But there are some colours that you need to worry about, so make sure you keep an eye on what goes into the toilet.


Sometimes your poo can be green but it’s usually down to a diet high in green vegCredit: Getty – Contributor

Green poo:

Your poop can also be green.

This is usually nothing to worry about as it is often caused by a diet high in green vegetables, but if you have unusual symptoms with it speak to your GP.

The colour can be caused by bile in the poo.

Bile is a brownish-green liquid created by the liver that helps aid digestion, but it can sometimes turn your poo a little to the green side.

It’s nothing to worry about, it just means your liver and pancreas are working normally.

Dark/black poo:

This can be a sign of something quite serious – internal bleeding.

“A black stool indicates bleeding from somewhere within the digestive tract so if someone presents with that you would really want to investigate both the bowel and the stomach,” Charlotte said.

Black poo is a red flag sign for bowel cancer, as well as bright red blood in the poo, so don’t hesitate to speak to a doctor.


Blood in your poo or a black coloured poo is a red flag sign of bowel cancerCredit: Getty – Contributor

Red poo:

Red poo can also be caused by blood in the poo.

As well as bowel cancer this can indicate another condition called haemorrhoids, or piles.

These are swellings of blood vessels found inside your bottom.

They normally don’t cause any pain or discomfort but can cause bleeding, itching and swelling.

If the symptoms persist you should speak to a doctor.


You should never have to strain when you are doing a number twoCredit: Getty – Contributor

Light/fatty poo

If your poo has a light colour or fatty consistency it could be a number of things.

A high fat diet can cause excess fat in your poop, so you may need to start eating healthier.

But a lighter coloured poo can also indicate a problem with your pancreas.

“That can indicate problems with the pancreas or gall bladder, when you have problems with the pancreas it can create a fatty, creamy coloured stool which is quite loose.”


THE Sun’s No Time 2 Lose campaign is calling for bowel cancer screening in England to start at 50 NOT 60.

The move could save more than 4,500 lives a year, experts say.

Bowel cancer is the second deadliest form of the disease, but it can be cured if it’s caught early – or better still prevented.

Caught at stage 1 – the earliest stage – patients have a 97 per cent chance of living for five years or longer.

But catch it at stage 4 – when it’s already spread – and that chance plummets to just seven per cent.

In April, Lauren Backler, whose mum died of the disease at the age of 55, joined forces with The Sun to launch the No Time 2 Lose campaign, also supported by Bowel Cancer UK. Donate here.

Lauren delivered a petition to the Department of Health complete with almost 450,000 signatures, to put pressure on the Government to make this vital change – one that could save thousands of lives every year, and the NHS millions.

We all deserve an equal chance to beat this disease, regardless of where we live.

We know bowel cancer is more likely after the age of 50 – so it makes sense to screen from then.

Plus, it’s got to save the NHS money in the long-run, catching the disease before patients need serious and expensive treatments.

It’s a no brainer, thousands of lives are at stake every year.

You can still sign Lauren’s petition to show your support – click HERE to add your signature.

What should a healthy poo look like?

There are seven types of poop, according to the Bristol Stool Chart, and the type you expel depends on how long it spent in your bowel.

But your overall health also plays a role in what your poo looks like.

Based on the stool chart, types one and two indicate constipation, types three and four are the ideal poos and types five to seven indicate diarrhoea.


If your poo looks like pellets and has a lot of cracks it indicates constipation

What consistency should your poop be?

If your bowel is healthy you should be able to hold onto your poo for a short time after you realise you need the loo, you should be able to go without straining or feeling pain and you should be able to completely empty your bowel.

Anything other than that could indicate a more serious condition, like bowel cancer or irritable bowel syndrome.

The Bristol Stool Chart suggests that your numbers twos should be type two or three – like a sausage with a few cracks or like a sausage but smooth.

It is important to know what a normal poo is for you, explained registered nurse Charlotte Dawson, head of support and information at Bowel Cancer UK.


If your poo is sausage shaped with a few cracks then it’s a healthy number two


“It [a healthy poo] should be a medium brown, it should be soft but not liquid, it should be easy to expel so you aren’t straining and it shouldn’t have a lot of cracks and fissures as that indicates constipation,” she told The Sun Online.

“If you have a very hard, knobbly, cracked poo that shows that it is very dry and therefore very constipated then that’s not particularly healthy.

“Then at the other end, if it is very loose, very liquid or has mucus in it then it is an unhealthy stool.”

Constipation is often caused by not eating enough fibre, not drinking enough water, a change in diet, stress or anxiety and medication, according to the NHS.

Diarrhoea can be caused by a tummy bug, change in diet, drinking too much alcohol and medication.

For both of these conditions the symptoms should pass within a few days, but if they are persistent you should seek medical help.


Type four is also considered a healthy poo

What if you poo has never looked like that?

The consistency of your poo is very dependent on your digestive system.

You may have a slow system that makes your poo slightly hard, or your bowel might work quicker to give your looser poops.

“If you are looking at the Bristol Stool Chart then a type three or four, which is middle of the road, is considered normal – but everyone is different,” Charlotte said.

“The big point to raise is ‘what is not normal for you?’.


If your poo looks like type 6 then you have mild diarrhoea

“It may be that someone normally has a hard, constipated, pellet type poo or maybe they are always on the softer side, but if that is what is normal for them and they have been living with that for years then it is unlikely to represent something like bowel cancer.

“If they are noticing a change in their bowel habit and in their stool and they have gone from something that is soft to loose, liquid and more frequent stools, that is something to report to their doctor.”

How often should you poo?

Again, this very much comes down to what is normal for you.

If you are someone that needs to poop once a day or someone that poops twice a day there’s nothing to worry about.

You could even be someone that poops several times a day or once every few day.

The main thing to be aware off when it comes to frequency, as well as colour and consistency, is that any changes need to be check out by a doctor.

​Ex ​England ​and Arsenal goalkeeper​ David Seaman​ ​alongside his father, Roger, open​ up about Roger’s ​battle with bowel cancer

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What Does the Shape and Color of My Poop Mean?

Dear Lifehacker,
Like most people, I’ve pooped a lot in my lifetime. Usually things follow a fairly predictable pattern, but now and then I’ve seen unusual colors and shapes. I don’t feel bad or have any discomfort, but I’m concerned these changes might mean something. How can I figure out when I should be concerned about the shape and color of my poop?

Crapping the Rainbow

Dear CtR,
The color of your poop does mean something, but often times it has more to do with what you eat than what horrible things could be happening in your body. If you have a concern, you should always play it safe and consult your doctor or another medical professional—something none of us at Lifehacker are, by the way. For that reason, we asked Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, medical editor at Examine.com, and Dr. David Dragoo, MD, to help get to the bottom of this problem (so to speak).

What the Shape of Your Poop Can Tell You

As it turns out, there’s a chart dedicated to the shape of your poop. Dr. Nadolsky explains:

There is something called the “Bristol Stool Chart” which we use sometimes in the office when dealing with patient’s GI health (e.g. constipation). This chart gives a good idea of what the consistency and shape should be of our stools.

G/O Media may get a commission

What does the Bristol Stool Chart look like? Here’s one courtesy of Wikipedia (that you might want to view on an empty stomach).

You can probably identify your own poop on this chart, but what do all the types mean? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Type 1 and 2: You’ve got constipation! Those little pellets or lumpy sausages you struggled to push out mean you’re having some difficulty. Constipation can become very painful if it isn’t already, and there are different solutions based on the problem. Go to your doctor and get examined. Generally they’ll just push on your stomach to see what’s up, so don’t worry—you probably won’t end up with a finger up your butt.
  • Type 3 and 4: Good work! You’re in the ideal camp. Nicely formed sausage and smooth and silky snake-like poops are the ideal turds we all try to achieve. If you’ve pooping these little daily miracles, you’re doing something right.
  • Type 5, 6, and 7: Blobs, fluff, and (essentially) brown “pee,” is on its way to becoming—or actually is—your old friend diarrhea. You can get diarrhea for a lot of reasons. Sometimes you just ate something that didn’t necessarily agree with your stomach. Sometimes you might be really sick. This post can’t tell you which it is, so talk to your doctor if you’re concerned.

As you can see, poops come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and consistencies. A very temporary change probably won’t mean much, but if you experience non-ideal bowel movements for more than a couple of days you should speak with your doctor.

What the Color of Your Poop Can Tell You

Much like reading rune stones, interpreting what the color of your poop actually means requires some serious interpretation. A shade of dark red could mean absolutely nothing or something very significant. Dr. Dragoo explains:

The color and consistency of your stool is one of the most important signs of you’re underlying health. Bloody stool is either the sign of hemorrhoids or possibly something more serious like cancer. Bloody stool is a particular one that you want to get checked out if you see that. Of course, on a lighter note, purple/reddish stool might just mean that you’ve eaten a lot of beets lately! Lastly, green poop is also not a good sign as it may reflect that your GI tract is having issues breaking down your bile and may warrant a trip to the doctor. Be one with your poop and use it to learn about your health and how to improve it!

Dr. Nadolsky offers a few other fun color-based observations:

Beets or red popsicles can make a red/dark red appearance, and this could obviously be concerning because blood looks similar. Iron supplements can make the stool turn very dark, but tar/black stools could mean a GI bleed as well. If you have biliary system issue your stool may lose that brown/yellow appearance and become “clay” colored.

If it isn’t obvious, pay attention to what you eat. When you see a strange color in your poop, you’ll know it doesn’t mean much if you had a beet salad in the last 40 hours. If you can’t attribute a cause, or experience pain along with your bowel movements, speak to your doctor.

A Brief Note About Rectal Mucus

Most people don’t know about a wonderful, grossly-named substance called rectal mucus—or, as I like to call it, your spinchter’s best friend. It’s a not a butt booger, but rather a good thing because it lubricates your poops. If you ever feel like you’re straining to get that turd out of your butt and things feel a little (or a lot) dry, it’s likely because you’re not producing enough rectal mucus. You wouldn’t go down a water slide without water, right? So don’t poop without rectal mucus or you’re asking your BMs to do just that.

You should never produce so much that you can actually see the stuff, but rather feel the ease of a healthy bowel movement. If you do see the presence of a lot of mucus in your stool, you may have one of a handful of problems and should consult your doctor. If you feel strained, you should consider a small adjustment in your diet. Chances are you’re not drinking enough water and/or eating enough. You can easily can more fiber with psyllium husks, but you’re always better off with fiber that occurs naturally in the foods you eat. If you don’t like the taste of water but need to drink more, take a look at these suggestions. You don’t want too much or too little water, so check out this post to make sure you’re getting the right amount.

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Overall, you can easily achieve regular good, healthy bowel movements with pretty minimal effort and not have to worry if there’s something wrong with your poop. Again—and we can’t say this enough—if you think you have a real problem you should consult your doctor. But if you just ate a beet and it looks like your anus is bleeding (I know, I’ve been there), now you’ll know you don’t have to worry so much.


P.S. Because you’re going to ask, the poop plush toy featured in this article’s photos comes from Sweden, is used to teach kids about potty training, and can be acquired here (if you’re as weird as I am).

Have a question or suggestion for a future Ask Lifehacker? Send it to [email protected].

What Do All of Those Colors Mean?

Choose an AuthorAaron Barber, AT, ATC, PESAbbie Roth, MWCAdam Ostendorf, MDAdriane Baylis, PhD, CCC-SLPAdrienne M. Flood, CPNP-ACAdvanced Healthcare Provider CouncilAila Co, MDAlaina White, AT, ATCAlana Milton, MDAlana Milton, MDAlecia Jayne, AuDAlessandra Gasior, DOAlex Kemper, MDAlexandra Funk, PharmD, DABATAlexandra Sankovic, MDAlexis Klenke, RD, LDAlice Bass, CPNP-PCAlison PeggAllie DePoyAllison Rowland, AT, ATCAllison Strouse, MS, AT, ATCAmanda E. Graf, MDAmanda Smith, RN, BSN, CPNAmanda Sonk, LMTAmanda Whitaker, MDAmber Patterson, MDAmberle Prater, PhD, LPCCAmy Coleman, LISWAmy Dunn, MDAmy E. Valasek, MD, MScAmy Fanning, PT, DPTAmy Garee, CPNP-PCAmy Hahn, PhDAmy HessAmy Leber, PhDAmy LeRoy, CCLSAmy Moffett, CPNP-PCAmy Randall-McSorley, MMC, EdD CandidateAnastasia Fischer, MD, FACSMAndala HardyAndrea Brun, CPNP-PCAndrea M. Boerger, MEd, CCC-SLPAndrew AxelsonAndrew Kroger, MD, MPHAndrew SchwadererAngela AbenaimAngela Billingslea, LISW-SAnn Pakalnis, MDAnna Lillis, MD, PhDAnnette Haban-BartzAnnie Drapeau, MDAnnie Temple, MS, CCC-SLP, CLCAnthony Audino, MDAnup D. Patel, MDAri Rabkin, PhDAriana Hoet, PhDArielle Sheftall, PhDArleen KarczewskiAshleigh Kussman, MDAshley EcksteinAshley Kroon Van DiestAshley M. Davidson, AT, ATC, MSAshley Minnick, MSAH, AT, ATCAshley Overall, FNPAshley Parikh, CPNP-PCAshley Parker MSW, LISW-SAshley Parker, LISW-SAshley Tuisku, CTRSAsuncion Mejias, MD, PhDAurelia Wood, MDBailey Young, DOBecky Corbitt, RNBelinda Mills, MDBenjamin Fields, PhD, MEdBenjamin Kopp, MDBernadette Burke, AT, ATC, MSBeth Martin, RNBeth Villanueva, OTD, OTR/LBethany Uhl, MDBethany Walker, PhDBhuvana Setty, MDBill Kulju, MS, ATBlake SkinnerBonnie Gourley, MSW, LSWBrad Childers, RRT, BSBrandi Cogdill, RN, BSN, CFRN, EMT-PBrandon MorganBreanne L. Bowers, PT, DPT, CHT, CFSTBrendan Boyle, MD, MPHBrian Boe, MDBrian K. Kaspar, PhDBrian Kellogg, MDBriana Crowe, PT, DPT, OCSBrigid Pargeon, MS, MT-BCBrittney Hardin, MOT, OTR/LBrooke Sims, LPCC, ATRCagri Toruner, MDCaitlin TullyCaleb MosleyCallista DammannCami Winkelspecht, PhDCanice Crerand, PhDCara Inglis, PsyDCarl H. Backes, MDCarlo Di Lorenzo, MDCarol Baumhardt, LMTCasey Cottrill, MD, MPHCasey TrimbleCassandra McNabb, RN-BSNCatherine Earlenbaugh, RNCatherine Sinclair, MDCatherine Trimble, NPCatrina Litzenburg, PhDCharae Keys, MSW, LISW-SCharles Elmaraghy, MDChelsie Doster, BSCheryl Boop, MS, OTR/LCheryl G. Baxter, CPNPCheryl Gariepy, MDChet Kaczor, PharmD, MBAChris Smith, RNChristina Ching, MDChristina DayChristine Johnson, MA, CCC-SLPChristine Mansfield, PT, DPT, OCS, ATCChristine PrusaChristopher Goettee, PT, DPT, OCSChristopher Iobst, MDChristopher Ouellette, MDCindy IskeClaire Kopko PT, DPT, OCS, NASM-PESCody Hostutler, PhDConnor McDanel, MSW, LSWCorey Rood, MDCorinne Syfers, CCLSCourtney Bishop. PA-CCourtney Hall, CPNP-PCCourtney Porter, RN, MSCrystal MilnerCurt Daniels, MDCynthia Holland-Hall, MD, MPHDana Lenobel, FNPDana Noffsinger, CPNP-ACDane Snyder, MDDaniel Coury, MDDaniel DaJusta, MDDaniel Herz, MDDanielle Peifer, PT, DPTDavid A Wessells, PT, MHADavid Axelson, MDDavid Stukus, MDDean Lee, MD, PhDDebbie Terry, NPDeborah Hill, LSWDeborah Zerkle, LMTDeena Chisolm, PhDDeipanjan Nandi, MD MScDenis King, MDDenise EllDennis Cunningham, MDDennis McTigue, DDSDiane LangDominique R. Williams, MD, MPH, FAAP, Dipl ABOMDonna Ruch, PhDDonna TeachDoug WolfDouglas McLaughlin, MDDrew Duerson, MDEd MinerEdward Oberle, MD, RhMSUSEdward Shepherd, MDEileen Chaves, PhDElise Berlan, MDElise DawkinsElizabeth A. Cannon, LPCCElizabeth Cipollone, LPCC-SElizabeth Zmuda, DOEllyn Hamm, MM, MT-BCEmily A. Stuart, MDEmily Decker, MDEmily GetschmanEmma Wysocki, PharmD, RDNEric Butter, PhDEric Leighton, AT, ATCEric Sribnick, MD, PhDErica Domrose, RD, LDEricca L Lovegrove, RDErika RobertsErin Gates, PT, DPTErin Johnson, M.Ed., C.S.C.S.Erin Shann, BSN, RNErin TebbenFarah W. Brink, MDGail Bagwell, DNP, APRN, CNSGail Besner, MDGail Swisher, ATGarey Noritz, MDGary A. Smith, MD, DrPHGeri Hewitt, MDGina Hounam, PhDGina McDowellGina MinotGrace Paul, MDGregory D. Pearson, MDGriffin Stout, MDGuliz Erdem, MDHailey Blosser, MA, CCC-SLPHanna MathessHeather Battles, MDHeather ClarkHeather Yardley, PhDHenry SpillerHenry Xiang, MD, MPH, PhDHerman Hundley, MS, AT, ATC, CSCSHiren Patel, MDHoma Amini, DDS, MPH, MSHoward Jacobs, MDHunter Wernick, DOIbrahim Khansa, MDIhuoma Eneli, MDIlana Moss, PhDIlene Crabtree, PTIrene Mikhail, MDIrina Buhimschi, MDIvor Hill, MDJackie Cronau, RN, CWOCNJacqueline Wynn, PhD, BCBA-DJacquelyn Doxie King, PhDJaime-Dawn Twanow, MDJames Murakami, MDJames Popp, MDJames Ruda, MDJameson Mattingly, MDJamie Macklin, MDJane AbelJanelle Huefner, MA, CCC-SLPJanice M. Moreland, CPNP-PC, DNPJanice Townsend, DDS, MSJared SylvesterJaysson EicholtzJean Hruschak, MA, CCC/SLPJeff Sydes, CSCSJeffery Auletta, MDJeffrey Bennett, MD, PhDJeffrey Hoffman, MDJeffrey Leonard, MDJen Campbell, PT, MSPTJena HeckJenn Gonya, PhDJennifer Borda, PT, DPTJennifer HofherrJennifer LockerJennifer PrinzJennifer Reese, PsyDJennifer Smith, MS, RD, CSP, LD, LMTJenny Worthington, PT, DPTJerry R. Mendell, MDJessalyn Mayer, MSOT, OTR/LJessica Bailey, PsyDJessica Bogacik, MS, MT-BCJessica Bowman, MDJessica BrockJessica Bullock, MA/CCC-SLPJessica Buschmann, RDJessica Scherr, PhDJim O’Shea OT, MOT, CHTJoan Fraser, MSW, LISW-SJohn Ackerman, PhDJohn Caballero, PT, DPT, CSCSJohn Kovalchin, MDJonathan D. Thackeray, MDJonathan Finlay, MB, ChB, FRCPJonathan M. Grischkan, MDJonathan Napolitano, MDJoshua Watson, MDJulee Eing, CRA, RT(R)Julia Colman, MOT, OTR/LJulie ApthorpeJulie Leonard, MD, MPHJulie Racine, PhDJulie Samora, MDJustin Indyk, MD, PhDKady LacyKaleigh Hague, MA, MT-BCKaleigh MatesickKamilah Twymon, LPCC-SKara Malone, MDKara Miller, OTR/LKaren Allen, MDKaren Days, MBAKaren Rachuba, RD, LD, CLCKari A. Meeks, OTKari Dubro, MS, RD, LD, CWWSKari Phang, MDKarla Vaz, MDKaryn L. Kassis, MD, MPHKasey Strothman, MDKatherine Deans, MDKatherine McCracken, MDKathleen (Katie) RoushKathryn Blocher, CPNP-PCKathryn J. Junge, RN, BSNKathryn Obrynba, MDKatie Brind’Amour, MSKatie Thomas, APRKatrina Hall, MA, CCLSKatrina Ruege, LPCC-SKatya Harfmann, MDKayla Zimpfer, PCCKelley SwopeKelli Dilver, PT, DPTKelly AbramsKelly BooneKelly HustonKelly J. Kelleher, MDKelly McNally, PhDKelly N. Day, CPNP-PCKelly Pack, LISW-SKelly Tanner,PhD, OTR/L, BCPKelly Wesolowski, PsyDKent Williams, MDKevin Bosse, PhDKevin Klingele, MDKim Bjorklund, MDKim Hammersmith, DDS, MPH, MSKimberly Bates, MDKimberly Sisto, PT, DPT, SCSKimberly Van Camp, PT, DPT, SCSKirk SabalkaKris Jatana, MD, FAAPKrista Winner, AuD, CCC-AKristen Armbrust, LISW-SKristen Cannon, MDKristen Martin, OTR/LKristi Roberts, MS MPHKristina Booth, MSN, CFNPKristina Reber, MDKyle DavisLance Governale, MDLara McKenzie, PhD, MALaura Brubaker, BSN, RNLaura DattnerLaurel Biever, LPCLauren Durinka, AuDLauren Garbacz, PhDLauren Justice, OTR/L, MOTLauren Madhoun, MS, CCC-SLPLauryn RozumLee Hlad, DPMLeena Nahata, MDLelia Emery, MT-BCLeslie Appiah, MDLinda Stoverock, DNP, RN NEA-BCLindsay Pietruszewski, PT, DPTLindsay SchwartzLindsey Vater, PsyDLisa GoldenLisa M. Humphrey, MDLogan Blankemeyer, MA, CCC-SLPLori Grisez PT, DPTLorraine Kelley-QuonLouis Bezold, MDLourdes Hill, LPCC-S Lubna Mazin, PharmDLuke Tipple, MS, CSCSLynda Wolfe, PhDLyndsey MillerLynn RosenthalLynne Ruess, MDMaggy Rule, MS, AT, ATCMahmoud Kallash, MDManmohan K Kamboj, MDMarc Levitt, MDMarc P. Michalsky, MDMarcel J. Casavant, MDMarci Johnson, LISW-SMarco Corridore, MDMargaret Bassi, OTR/LMaria HaghnazariMaria Vegh, MSN, RN, CPNMarissa Condon, BSN, RNMarissa LarouereMark E. Galantowicz, MDMark Smith, MS RT R (MR), ABMP PhysicistMarnie Wagner, MDMary Ann Abrams, MD, MPHMary Fristad, PhD, ABPPMary Kay SharrettMary Shull, MDMatthew Washam, MD, MPHMeagan Horn, MAMegan Brundrett, MDMegan Dominik, OTR/LMegan FrancisMegan Letson, MD, M.EdMeghan Cass, PT, DPTMeghan Fisher, BSN, RNMeika Eby, MDMelanie Fluellen, LPCCMelanie Luken, LISW-SMelissa and Mikael McLarenMelissa McMillen, CTRSMelissa Winterhalter, MDMeredith Merz Lind, MDMichael Flores, PhDMichael T. Brady, MDMike Patrick, MDMindy Deno, PT, DPTMitch Ellinger, CPNP-PCMolly Gardner, PhDMonica Ardura, DOMonica EllisMonique Goldschmidt, MDMotao Zhu, MD, MS, PhDMurugu Manickam, MDNancy AuerNancy Cunningham, PsyDNancy Wright, BS, RRT, RCP, AE-C Naomi Kertesz, MDNatalie Powell, LPCC-S, LICDC-CSNatalie Rose, BSN, RNNathalie Maitre, MD, PhDNationwide Children’s HospitalNationwide Children’s Hospital Behavioral Health ExpertsNeetu Bali, MD, MPHNehal Parikh, DO, MSNichole Mayer, OTR/L, MOTNicole Caldwell, MDNicole Dempster, PhDNicole Greenwood, MDNicole Parente, LSWNicole Powell, PsyD, BCBA-DNina WestNkeiruka Orajiaka, MBBSOctavio Ramilo, MDOliver Adunka, MD, FACSOlivia Stranges, CPNP-PCOlivia Thomas, MDOmar Khalid, MD, FAAP, FACCOnnalisa Nash, CPNP-PCOula KhouryPaige Duly, CTRSParker Huston, PhDPatrick C. Walz, MDPatrick Queen, BSN, RNPedro Weisleder, MDPeter Minneci, MDPeter White, PhDPitty JenningsPreeti Jaggi, MDRachael Morocco-Zanotti, DORachel D’Amico, MDRachel Schrader, CPNP-PCRachel Tyson, LSWRajan Thakkar, MDRaymond Troy, MDRebecca Fisher, PTRebecca Hicks, CCLSRebecca Lewis, AuD, CCC-ARebecca Romero ShakReggie Ash Jr.Reno Ravindran, MDRichard Kirschner, MDRichard Wood, MDRobert A. Kowatch, MD, Ph.D.Rochelle Krouse, CTRSRohan Henry, MD, MSRose Ayoob, MDRose Schroedl, PhDRosemary Martoma, MDRoss Maltz, MDRyan Ingley AT, ATCSamanta Boddapati, PhDSamantha MaloneSammy CygnorSandra C. Kim, MDSara Bentley, MT-BCSara Bode, MDSara Breidigan, MS, AT, ATCSara N. Smith, MSN, APRNSara O’Rourke, MOT, OTR/L, Clinical LeadSara Schroder, MDSarah A. Denny, MDSarah Cline, CRA, RT(R)Sarah Driesbach, CPN, APNSarah GreenbergSarah Hastie, BSN, RNC-NIC Sarah Keim, PhDSarah MyersSarah O’Brien, MDSarah SaxbeSarah Schmidt, LISW-SSarah ScottSarah TraceySarah VerLee, PhDSasigarn Bowden, MDSatya Gedela, MD, MRCP(UK)Scott Coven, DO, MPHScott Hickey, MDSean EingSean Rose, MDSeth Alpert, MDShana Moore, MA, CCC-AShannon Reinhart, LISW-SShari UncapherSharon Wrona, DNP, PNP, PMHSShawn Pitcher, BS, RD, USAWShawNaye Scott-MillerShea SmoskeSheila GilesSimon Lee, MDStacy Whiteside APRN, MS, CPNP-AC/PC, CPONStefanie Bester, MDStefanie Hirota, OTR/LStephanie Burkhardt, MPH, CCRCStephanie CannonStephanie Santoro, MDStephanie Vyrostek BSN, RNStephen Hersey, MDSteve Allen, MDSteven C. Matson, MDSteven Ciciora, MDSteven CuffSuellen Sharp, OTR/L, MOTSusan Colace, MDSusan Creary, MDSwaroop Pinto, MDTabatha BallardTabbetha GrecoTabi EvansTabitha Jones-McKnight, DOTahagod Mohamed, MDTamara MappTammi Young-Saleme, PhDTerry Barber, MDTerry Bravender, MD, MPHTerry Laurila, MS, RPhTheresa Miller, BA, RRT, RCP, AE-C, CPFTThomas Pommering, DOThomas SavageTiasha Letostak, PhDTiffanie Ryan, BCBA Tim RobinsonTimothy Cripe, MD, PhDTracey L. Sisk, RN, BSN, MHATracie Rohal RD, LD, CDETracy Mehan, MATravis Gallagher, ATTrevor MillerTyanna Snider, PsyDTyler Congrove, ATVanessa Shanks, MD, FAAPVenkata Rama Jayanthi, MDVidu Garg, MDVidya Raman, MDW. Garrett Hunt, MDWalter Samora, MDWarren D. Lo, MDWendy Anderson, MDWendy Cleveland, MA, LPCC-SWhitney McCormick, CTRSWhitney Raglin Bignall, PhDWilliam Cotton, MDWilliam J. Barson, MDWilliam Ray, PhDWilliam W. Long, MD