What is the Bristol Stool Chart?
The Bristol Stool Chart is a clinical assessment tool with seven distinct categories that gives a way to classify the nature of stool based on its shape and consistency. The categories include a range of different types of stool, from hard lumps (type 1) to watery diarrhea (type 7). This characterization gives patients a simple and less awkward way to talk about their stool, and is a helpful reference for both patients and healthcare professionals in determining normal vs. abnormal bowel movements. Stools that have a regular shape and are easy to pass are usually considered by physicians as an indication of a healthy digestion (generally type 3 or type 4). The chart has also become a useful diagnostic tool for clinicians seeing patients with gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Why is it important?
Bowel movements can be very revealing about the state of a person’s digestive health, and can also provide meaningful insight into underlying health issues and conditions. Changes in the appearance, odor, and frequency of stool can indicate that something has gone awry, from simply just a poor diet to more serious issues, such as cancer or bowel obstruction. Recurring constipation (Type 1 and 2) could be a sign of an undiagnosed thyroid condition or diabetes, while persistent diarrhea (Type 5 to Type 7) is a well-known symptom of chronic inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease or Ulcerative Colitis.