We often shy away from toilet talk, yet everybody poops. Staying quiet could mean flushing away valuable clues about your health. I will tell you what your poop says about you.
Your poop can tell you if you have enough fiber and drink enough water. Your poop can also tell you if your digestive system is functioning optimally. Moreover, the changes in your bowl patterns or the shape, solidity, and appearance could signify something gone awry. So, what is healthy poop? I’ll get to that in just a minute.
It’s important to talk with your functional medicine doctor about your poop. You will learn why it’s good to talk about poop, what the color of your poop says about your health, why poop sometimes smells terrible, and how to support healthy bowel patterns. I will also break down the Bristol Stool Chart. First, let’s talk about healthy poop.
What is Normal Poop?
Surprise! There is a lot of diversity in what is considered “normal poop.” Everyone’s poop is different, and it may not be the same every day. However, there are ways to tell if your poop is normal. The size, shape, firmness, color, time of day, and smell give you insight into how “normal” your poop is. I’ll get into what the color means and the shape in a bit.
The most normal time of day to have a bowel movement is in the morning. This is because your body works hard while sleeping to digest and process food. However, it significantly slows down because you’re not eating or drinking while sleeping.1 While sleeping, your digestive system grows, repairs, and rebuilds tissue, using glucose instead of calories to fuel this process. Eating a large meal before bed puts added stress on your digestive system.
The time it takes to have a bowel movement, and its regularity of them is also a good indicator of how normal your poop is. It should only take a couple of minutes to have a bowel movement. You don’t need to poop every day to be regular. If you’re having a bowel movement between three times a week or three times a day, that’s healthy.
As for the size, shape, and firmness, Dr. Kenneth Heaton at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, a teaching hospital in Bristol, England, developed the Bristol Stool Chart in 1997 as an assessment tool to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments for various bowel diseases.2 Let’s break it down.
Breaking Down the Bristol Stool Chart
Dr. Heaton created the Bristol Stool Chart, also known as the Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS), as a simple method to classify stools visually without requiring patients to bring in samples to be tested in a lab. It’s used all over the world to assess bowel health. For example, the Bristol Stool Chart can help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome.
The Bristol Stool Chart classifies stools into seven types, ranging from the hardest to the softest. Type 1 and 2 are hard and indicate constipation. Types 6 and 7 are loose and runny and may indicate diarrhea. Types 3, 4, and 5 are considered healthy stools. Let’s take a brief look at the different types.
Types 1 and 2
Type 1 is a group of separate hard lumps of stool, while type 2 is more of a solid sausage-shaped poop with visible lumps. These types of poop are also darker in color. This happens because food passes too slowly through the digestive tract, and your large intestine absorbs too much water. Both types of poop indicate constipation.
To address constipation, you can increase your magnesium citrate intake and add prebiotic fiber-rich foods or more fiber to your diet to promote healthy bowel movements. I formulated Colon Comfort with magnesium citrate and added a boost of botanical extracts such as apple cider vinegar, ginger, and artichoke, making it ideal for regular digestive support. My Prebiotic Fiber Complete™ includes a fiber blend to give the good bacteria in your gut the strength it needs to fight off the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and support healthy bowel patterns.
Types 3, 4, and 5
The three types of poop in this group are considered healthy. Type 3 is similar to type 2, yet has cracks on the surface without the lumps. Type 4 is comparable to type 3. However, it has a more smooth and soft texture. Type 3 and 4 are considered by the BSFS as the healthiest types of poop and signify optimal digestive health.
Type 5, while considered normal, has a softer texture. It looks like soft blobs with clear-cut edges, so it passes easily through the large intestine.
To maintain healthy bowel function, I recommend that virtually everyone take a probiotic for daily maintenance. Probiotics not only support healthy bowel function, they also impact how long waste remains in your body. I formulated Probiotic Capsules 30 Billion to support daily maintenance for digestive health.
Because Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small bowel often caused by chronic constipation or challenges with the nervous system, adding more lactic acid-based bacteria into the small intestine can often add more fuel to the fire. This is why I recommend Primal Earth Probiotic to anyone with SIBO or who suspects SIBO may be at the root cause of their issues or simply doesn’t tolerate most probiotics.
Type 6 and 7
Both of these types of stool indicate diarrhea. The most common causes of acute diarrhea are dehydration or food sensitivities. If you have persistent diarrhea, that could mean a gut infection such as leaky gut, SIBO, Celiac disease, or Candida overgrowth.3
Type 6 is a soft, mushy stool with ragged edges, while type 7 is an entirely liquid stool. They may also be lighter in color. This happens because the stool has moved too quickly through the large intestine, which cannot absorb water.
Providing your gut with the essential nutrients is crucial in supporting healthy bowel patterns. My most comprehensive tool for this is Leaky Gut Revive®, which contains powerful, gut-repairing ingredients such as L-glutamine, aloe, licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm, and marshmallow root. These ingredients nourish and soothe your gut cells while restoring your gut’s natural mucosal lining.
Drinking plenty of water and electrolytes if you have diarrhea is essential to maintain healthy hydration levels. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces daily. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water each day.
The structure can tell you what your poop says about you. However, it’s not the only characteristic that tells you what your poop says about your health. The color of your poop tells you about the food, beverages, or medications you are consuming.
Is Color Important?
While brown is the most typical color of poop, it’s not the only color your poop can be. You might see black, green, red, yellow, or pale in your toilet. Normal poop is brown, like a cup of coffee. It can be light brown to espresso. This happens due to the bile and bilirubin.
Bile is a yellowish-green fluid made in the liver and stored in your gallbladder. Bilirubin is an orange-yellow substance made from breaking down red blood cells. These two colors mix through the digestive process and make your poop brown.4
While brown is the most typical color of poop, it’s not the only color you might see. Here’s what the color of your poop says about you.
One of the most common causes of black poop is too much iron. If you have anemia and are taking iron supplements or over-the-counter medications for diarrhea, your pool might be black. However, a black stool could indicate bleeding. Consult with your functional medicine physician to rule out bleeding.
Green poop is nothing to be alarmed about. It could mean that your food isn’t staying in your digestive system very long or you are eating a lot of leafy green vegetables (which is excellent!). If your poop looks like neon green playdough, it’s likely from artificial flavors in drink mixes, frosting, or frozen desserts. You should always avoid foods with artificial flavorings, colors, and preservatives and eat a diet of whole organic foods.
Eating a lot of red foods such as beets, cranberries, red gelatin, or tomato juice can cause your poop to turn red. However, it could be due to having blood in your stool. This could be a sign of a gut infection or colon cancer.5 If you can’t explain red poop because of your diet, you should make an appointment with your functional medicine doctor.
If your poop is yellow and accompanied by a strong smell, it likely indicates you are getting too much fat in your diet. It can also mean your gut isn’t absorbing nutrients from the food you are eating. Malabsorption happens due to a leaky gut, SIBO, food sensitivities, or chronic illness. To promote optimal absorption, I recommend taking digestive enzymes before every meal.
I formulated Complete Enzymes to support optimal nutrient absorption using a broad spectrum of digestive enzymes. When taken before a meal, this physician-formulated supplement breaks down peptides, proteins, carbohydrates, disaccharides, sugars, lipids/fats, and vegetable fiber.
Pale or White
No one wants their poop to look white and chalky. If you look in your toilet and your poop is pale or white, it likely indicates your body isn’t producing bile or a malfunctioning gallbladder.6 It could also mean that you have a gut infection such as Candida overgrowth or SIBO, and your bile duct is blocked. To heal your gut, I recommend the 4R approach. I will tell you about the 4Rs in just a minute. Pale poop could also be a side effect of over-the-counter medications used for diarrhea.
How to Support Healthy Bowel Patterns
If you don’t have normal-looking poop, it’s essential to get to the root cause of your stool’s abnormal color or structure. It starts with repairing your gut. In functional medicine, we use a simple approach that we call the 4R program to heal your gut. I have successfully used the 4R approach with thousands of patients to heal their gut and reverse their symptoms.
- Remove: Remove all inflammatory foods that can contribute to an unbalanced gut, such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. You’ll also need to ditch toxic foods, including sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Finally, eliminate any gut infections you have, whether caused by Candida overgrowth, SIBO, or parasites. I recommend trying an elimination diet to determine if you are sensitive to any foods.
- Restore: Add the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption that get depleted by a bad diet, medications (such as antacids), chronic illness, or aging. This includes digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids required for proper digestion.
- Reinoculate: Restoring beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical. This may be accomplished by taking a probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. I recommend anywhere from 25 -100 billion units a day. Also, taking a prebiotic (food for the good bacteria) supplement or consuming foods high in soluble fiber is essential. If you have SIBO, I recommend taking a soil-based probiotic.
- Repair: Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. My most comprehensive weapon against leaky gut is Leaky Gut Revive® powder, which contains powerful gut-repairing ingredients l-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm, and marshmallow root. With these ingredients, Leaky Gut Revive® nourishes and soothes your gut cells, restores your gut’s natural mucosal lining, and maximizes gut-mending fatty acid production. It also comes in a delicious strawberry lemonade flavor. I drink a glass of Leaky Gut Revive® Strawberry Lemonade every day.
Magnesium, specifically magnesium citrate, is also an excellent tool for promoting healthy bowel patterns and is commonly used for patients with constipation. Magnesium citrate is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium, which is why I incorporated it into my Colon Comfort formula. I combined magnesium citrate with botanicals such as apple cider vinegar, ginger, and artichoke to support digestive health and promote a healthy metabolism.
Magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium that’s mixed with citric acid. Citric acid is in citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, or lemon. If you are sensitive to citrus, you should talk with your functional healthcare provider before using magnesium citrate.7
The Final Word
Don’t flush your health away by shying away from talking about poop. Your poop says a lot about your health, and knowing what to look for can help make those conversations about poop more regular. These tools and supplements promote healthy bowel patterns and can improve your overall gut health. After all, the gateway to your health begins in your gut!
- How Lack Of Sleep Can Affect Gut Health. Henry Ford. Henry Ford Health. 2021.
- Stool Form Scale as a Useful Guide to Intestinal Transit Time. S.J. Lewis & K.W. Heaton. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. 1997.
- Symptoms & Causes of Diarrhea. National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2016.
- Bilirubin Metabolism. Courtney M. Townsend JR, MD. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 2022.
- Stool color: When to worry. Michael F. Picco, M.D. Mayo Clinic. 2022.
- Gallbladder Disease. Abdul Wadood Mohamed. Healthline. 2018.
- Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised, double-blind study. Ann F Walker, Samantha Christie, et al. Magnesium Research. 2003.