I have been referenced from time to time as the poop queen. I know, ridiculous right? But that is because our poop gives us a lot of important information about our current state of health. In fact, looking at your stool is one of the simplest and most effective ways of figuring our what is going on with your digestion and gut health. Understanding our digestive health is very important because it is strongly associated with our overall health. Now hopefully you are starting to see why these conversations are so essential!
So what do different types of stools mean? The best way to scale the health of your poop is with the Bristol Stool Chart. This chart uses different types and consistencies of stool so you can figure out where you fall on the scale of "healthy poop". Types 1-3 are considered constipation, type 4 is the ideal and types 5-7 are levels of diarrhea. Here is a breakdown of the Bristol Stool Chart is you are unfamiliar with it:
Type 1 - Separate hard lumps, like deer poop or nuts
Type 2 - Firm, sausage-shaped but lumpy
Type 3 - Sausage-shaped but with cracks on its surface
Type 4 - Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft
Type 5 - Soft blobs with defined edges
Type 6 - Mushy stool - fluffy pieces with ragged edges
Type 7 - Watery, no solid pieces, entirely liquid So let's talk a little more about the ideal stool. You'll know your digestion is on track when your stool is medium brown in color and solidly formed. It should pass easily in the shape of an S or C. You should also be going regularly, once or twice per day, with no difficulty doing so.
If your stool is mostly formed but appears with different colors and/or has pieces of food in it, then proper digestion is not taking place. When pieces of food are still in your stool and you can mostly identify what they are, then it is not being digested and you may have low stomach acid, low enzyme production or food intolerance(s). This will call for either taking strategies to increase stomach acid production, supplementing with a digestive enzyme or identifying and avoiding your food intolerances/sensitivities. When the same food shows up over and over again, undigested in your stool, this may be a sign you are intolerant to that food.
If your stool is mostly loose, unformed, different colors and has pieces of undigested food, you most likely ate something your body is reacting too. Diarrhea is typical when your body is trying to get something out. Other causes such as a bacterial overgrowth, parasites, viruses (like the flu) or supplementing with too much magnesium (particularly magnesium citrate) can also be causes of loose stool. Diseases of the stomach, small intestine or colon (Crohn's) may also lead to loose stools. And to add to it all, loose stools may be caused by too much fiber, particularly when in the form of nuts or leafy greens.
When your stool is either white, greenish or light in color, it means there is dysfunction in the gallbladder where bile is not being released properly. This can happen when we consume too many highly processed seed and vegetable oils or when we are not fully digesting the healthy fats in our diet. It is important to avoid these highly refined vegetable and seed oils while also improving your digestion of healthy fats through supporting your liver and gallbladder. If you find you are following these suggestions and are still experiencing these types of stools, you might want to reduce your fat intake.
If your stool is light-colored, yellow, the color of clay, or very light brown, this may indicate an infection / inflammation in the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas.
If your poop is floating, this can indicates malabsorption of or too much fat, or potentially a bacterial overgrowth.
Stools that are very dark in color, smell bad, and sinks to the bottom of the bowl, are usually due to poor diet and/or a high toxic load in the body. This calls for switching to a healthy diet full of organic, whole foods, drinking plenty of filtered water, reducing environmental toxins and potentially participating in a detox.
Stool that smells bad can be indicators of Celiac disease, Crohn's disease or a sulfur intolerance. If your poop smells like rotten eggs, you might want to look into sulfur intolerance and / or hydrogen sulfide SIBO.
Stool that is medium to dark in color, has a thicker, tougher shape, and is more difficult to pass is typically indicative of a diet high in processed forms of proteins (e.g. protein powders, shakes and bars) or a diet too high in protein in general.
Stools that are very dark in color and come out in deer pellet form could indicate an imbalance in your microbiome, dehydration, stress, a need for more soluble fibre and / or more healthy fats. When this occurs focus on probiotics, whole foods, filtered water and stress mitigation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation.
While the health of our stools can typically be helped through diet changes, it is important to remember that there may be more severe causes such as bacterial/yeast overgrowths or parasites. If you have been changing your diet but nothing seems to be helping your digestion, it may be time to visit your naturopath for a stool test.