Originally published February 20, 2020
Are you someone who has trouble “going” under pressure?
Maybe, you’re just having trouble “going” in general. This article might be for you.
For a company that analyzes your gut microbiome based on a sample of your stool, we’ll be the first to admit just how special your poop is. Although you might take your bowel movement for granted, there is an unfathomable amount of information you can gather from it. How you go, how frequently you go, and the appearance of your stool are all things that can say a lot about your digestive health – and it can speak volumes about your overall health as well.
Last Stop on the Digestion Train
Pooping isn’t exactly a normal dinner conversation, but maybe it should be. After all, mealtimes are where it all begins. What we put into our mouths is an important indicator in what kind of bowel movement we will have. Our body digests and absorbs the food we eat through a complex process that starts from the moment food enters our mouth and continues all the way to the end of our colon.
You might joke about it, but healthcare professionals have known for decades what your poop can say about your health – which is why it is common practice for many different tests to require a stool sample. So let’s take a look – from a distance – at what your poop might say about you.
Don’t Worry, It’s Just Beets
Let’s start with color.
If you didn’t know the foods you eat could impact the color of your stool – you might not have eaten beets recently. Although finding a reddish-tint to your poop might not be a laughing matter – as in the case of blood in your stool – many foods can change the appearance of your poop. For example, if you’re eating a lot of dark green, leafy vegetables, your poop might appear a little green. Depending on your poop, here are a few things to look out for:
If you’ve noticed a light-colored, almost clay or yellow-brown poop, this may be a sign of a higher fat concentration in your stool. This may be linked to issues of inflammation in your gall-bladder, liver, or pancreas. It may also be linked to inadequate release of bile, which is used to help process fat in your diet.
Black Poop or Red Poop
If you didn’t recently eat several servings of black licorice or other dark foods like blueberries and blackberries or beets, this might be an indicator of bleeding in your intestinal tract. This may be from several different causes: bleeding in the rectum or anus, swelling in the lining of your stomach, food or foreign object stuck in your digestive system, or a sign of cancer. Though the cause may vary, if you noticed blood in your stool it’s best to consult with your doctor.
In general, a healthy bowel movement should appear a natural shade of brown. However, the shape of your poop can also indicate lapses in your diet or health.
All Shapes and Sizes
Although there isn’t a recommendation for how frequently you should go because it varies from person to person (and most likely day to day) the shape of your bowel movement can explain a lot about your digestive health. In fact, one of the easiest ways you can compare your poop is to consult your friendly “Bristol Chart,” an easily digestible – pun intended – infographic that helps you visualize how poop varies. This chart has been used in doctor’s offices across the nation and can reliably help you assess generalized gaps of health indicators from your digestion process by portraying the 7 different types of poop you may encounter.
Constipation (Types 1-2)
Type 1: Separate Hard Lumps
If you noticed your bowel movement appears to be small, hard lumps, most likely you’re experiencing severe constipation. This may be due to dehydration or diet low in fiber. Many different medications can also cause constipation – it might benefit you to speak to your doctor about how to reduce your symptoms of constipation.
Type 2: Sausage-shaped but lumpy
One step better than severe, but most likely you’re still suffering from a mild form of constipation. Having a larger stool than small lumps is a clear indicator that you’re getting close to enough hydration but with room for improvement. Increasing your physical activity, water intake, and eating fiber-rich foods may improve the hardness of your stool and also help regulate your bowel movements.
Normal (Types 3-4)
Type 3: Sausage-shaped but with cracks
This stool is a good example of a regular bowel movement that retains its shape and can pass easily. This is a sign that your diet is relatively stable and your digestive process is functioning fairly normal.
Type 4: Like a Sausage or Snake
The ideal stool: easy to pass and maintains its form. Optimal bowel movement alert!
May Indicate Diarrhea (Types 5-7)
Type 5: Soft Blobs
As your stool begins to soften, this may be a sign of malabsorption of nutrients, excess gas in the digestive tract, or a higher fat concentration in your stool. It could also be a sign of a gastrointestinal infection or pancreatitis if it persists. On its own, it may not be a concern, but if you have any other symptoms it may be beneficial to seek out a healthcare professional.
Type 6: Fluffy Pieces
In this case, this could be the sign of food intolerance or allergy. Additionally, you may experience this mushy stool if you’re experiencing a stomach infection or under the use of a laxative. Recently taking antibiotics may also result in loose stools. In any case, remember to keep hydrated and seek out professional help if symptoms persist.
Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces
Your classic symptoms of diarrhea can play a severe role on your health and increase your risk of dehydration. This is not a normal stool, and prolonged bouts of severe diarrhea are more than just uncomfortable – they can be a sign of something much more harmful. Diarrhea is an indicator that your digestive system is rejecting something and can be linked to bacteria, parasites, or viruses you may encounter or from recent travel. In addition, long-term symptoms can be suggestive of other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s, or other digestive diseases. If you experience diarrhea for an extended period of time, seek immediate help.
What Your Poop Says About Your Diet & How to Fill the Gaps
Learning more about your poop can give you a better gauge on your digestive health. Furthermore, it could be a sign of something more severe. Although no one person is exactly alike, monitoring changes in your stool can help you assess gaps in your diet. Fortunately, Viome can help take the guesswork out of your nutritional lifestyle by assessing the microbes thriving in your gut. In many ways, our gut microbes also impact our poop. When you assess your gut microbial activity with one of Viome’s Gut Intelligence Tests, you receive in-depth assessments of many microbial pathway activities like inflammation, gas production, and salt stress (which can shed light on your hydration status). These pathways, and many others, can influence what type of bowel movements you have.
When you start using your personalized dietary recommendations, made just for you, one of the first things you might notice is changes in your stool. This is one of the most immediate changes you can see – and you’ll feel the difference too. Improving your diet and shifting it toward more balanced nutrition based on your needs means seeing results in your digestion and digestive health, beginning – and ending – with your poop. Perfecting your supplements routine and intake through Viome's Precision Supplements can also help with regular bowel movements.