When Alex was little, her mother would ask how her poop went. “Eww!” she’d shout, horrified.
But, she insisted and told her that Chinese emperors always had a doctor inspecting their stool to learn what poop says about their health.
We all depend on our gut. We all try to follow our gut. So it’s about time we start putting our gut health first. After all, 95% of serotonin — our ‘happiness chemical — is produced in the gut.
We researched the crap out of poop, and I gained expertise in my long battle against constipation. In this article you’ll learn how to use the poop health chart to know when our gut is happy.
So, let’s dive into what poop says about your health and how to improve digestive health.
what poop says about your health
Every 1-3 days (hopefully), our body shares an in-depth (it should sink) summary of our health. It’s called poop.
The ancient Chinese, Greeks, Egyptians, and many more ancient cultures monitored the shape, size, and texture of poop to diagnose health problems.
But, in this day and age, we have progressed to far more complex ways to measure our health and diagnose problems.
Frankly, we stopped giving a shit about our poop. Most people just cover it with TP and flush it down.
But, that’s all about to change. Our poop still has a lot to say about our health. And sometimes it’s the simplest things that shed the most light.
Why Poop Is Important
In our body, the digestive system is hugely influential. If it had an Instagram account, it would have trillions of followers from all locations in the body.
Not only does the digestive system have a large reach, but it’s also huge. The surface area of your gut is about 40 times larger than that of your skin. Forty!
And think about all of the money, time, and effort we spend on our skin. If we just put a little bit of that effort towards our guts, we’d all be better off.
Our gut is massively connected and important to our health. The gut has more nerves than our spinal cord. It produces 20 different hormones, significantly more than both male and female sex organs.
Plus, the bacteria in our gut manufacture 95% of our body’s supply of serotonin, the ‘happiness chemical’ that regulates our mood and anxiety.
Gut health and its mysterious connection to the brain is currently the topic of thousands of scientific studies.
What we know right now, is that people with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease have a higher rise of anxiety or depression.
Your gut health and your mental health are linked.
We also know that in the UK, a fecal transplant is commonly used to cure illness. A fecal transplant is exactly what it sounds like — taking poop from a healthy donor and transplanting it into the intestines of a sick recipient.
Not only does the bacteria from the fecal matter cure symptoms, but doctors found that recipients started to crave the foods that the healthy donor was eating, making it a more long term solution.
Now that you’re both fascinated and disgusted, it’s time to learn what poop says about your health.
Is My Poop Normal?
To answer this question, you have to start looking at your poop.
You might even want to keep a poop journal, documenting your movements and identifying patterns in your diet or lifestyle.
However, since it’s awkward to look at other people’s poop, you’ll never know what is “normal” if you don’t learn how to read the poop chart.
More on that soon. First, let’s begin with the most common questions people ask about their poop.
1. Should poop sink or float?
It should sink. If your poop is dense enough to sink, that means you’re eating enough fiber and your digestive system is running well.
If it floats, there is room for improvement. It’s probably just because you’re eating foods that create more gasses, such as beans, milk, or cabbage.
The occasional floater is fine, but if it goes on like this for weeks, you need to make some diet changes (this is where journaling comes in handy) or talk to a doctor.
2. What type of poop is unhealthy?
And what does unhealthy poop say about your health? The poop health chart I referred to previously describes the color, shape, and consistency of 7 types of feces.
Of the 7 types, only two are considered normal, regular, or healthy. All other types of poop signal either constipation or diarrhea.
Healthy poop is brown, sausage or snake-like, and has a smooth texture with some surface cracking. We’ll talk about the poop health chart in greater detail soon.
3. Should I do the corn test?
The corn test is an easy and informative way to check your digestive system’s performance.
Poop is waste. Therefore, a healthy and high performance digestive system clears waste fully and efficiently. Since corn kernels are not digested, eat some corn and see how long it takes to get to the other side.
Ideally, you want to see the corn again in 1-2 days. That’s when you know that there are no traffic jams in your colon. If there are, you might be rerouted from regularity to constipation.
Now that we have covered the poop basics, you’re going to learn how to understand what your poop says about your health.
What Poop Says About Your Health
In this section, you are going to learn about normal, healthy bowel movements. Going forward, you’ll use this baseline poop chart information to read and understand your poops.
The Bristol Stool Scale, developed in 1997, classifies poop into seven categories. It’s the standard poop chart for adults used in clinical and experimental fields.
Therefore, it’s also the standard chart for at-home poop classification. So, what is the poop chart meaning?
Here’s how it can help you understand what your poop says about your health.
Poop Health Chart
The below poop health chart tells you what your poop means. It’s the primary chart used to understand the types of poop and what it means for your health.
Bristol Stool Chart Type 1 (Severe Constipation)
Type 1 on the poop health scale is not good.
It might feel like you’re passing marbles. This should happen very infrequently and only when you’re severely constipated.
My question was, “Why isn’t there a Type 0,” meaning no movements at all. Once, I was Type 0 for two and a half weeks, days from hospitalization.
If you’ve experienced either Type 1 or 0 for over a week, you must get back to a healthy poop schedule. You should see a doctor and make significant lifestyle and diet changes.
For the Type 0’s out there, we’ll talk about how to poop when constipated soon.
Bristol Stool Chart Type 2 (Mild Constipation)
The shape is more log-like, but the lumps indicate that you’re mildly constipated. Again, this should not happen often.
For many, this happens when a vacation or work trip breaks the normal routine. Stay hydrated, exercise, eat fiber, and keep reading for more digestion health tips.
Bristol Stool Chart Type 3 (Healthy Poop)
This is the best type of poop. It should come out easily and look like a dark brown sausage. It means you’re getting plenty of fiber and water.
Bristol Stool Chart Type 4 (Healthy Poop)
This is another normal, healthy type of poop. However, it’s getting a little soft, making it a snake-like and narrow stool.
Bristol Stool Chart Type 5 (Needs More Fiber)
These soft poops are easy to pass. They are blob-like with clear-cut edges. You need more fiber to increase poop density.
Bristol Stool Chart Type 6 (Mild Diarrhea)
It’s a mushy, shapeless pile that indicates mild diarrhea. This usually happens when your routine is derailed.
It could be that you’re drinking more alcohol than usual or you have mild food poisoning. It shouldn’t last more than a couple of days. Make sure you stay hydrated.
Bristol Stool Chart Type 7 (Severe Diarrhea)
There is no fiber in this poop, it’s completely liquid. You’ve got the runs, and if it persists for more than a couple of days you should see a doctor.
Remember to drink tons of water. Diarrhea dehydrates you quickly.
Stool Color and Health
You can also learn what your poop says about your health from the color. So, what color is a healthy stool?
The ideal poop health color is dark brown. All other colors are not normal and make good data points as you analyze your poop.
If you’re concerned about the color of your poop, there’s a useful WebMD article on what stool colors mean.
Healthy Poop Schedule
Pooping every day on a fairly consistent schedule is the goal.
However, according to this assessment of normal bowel habits, adult poop frequency is between three per week and three per day.
Also, healthy poop should only take about a minute to push out, and no longer than 15 minutes.
Great Poop = Great Health
I used to be shy about discussing poop health, but no more. It’s massively important. Your poop can tell you a lot about your gut and overall health.
Over the years, I’ve talked to many people about their digestive health challenges.
Why am I so interested? You guessed it, my poop health story is not a regular one.
The Constipation Was Real
After college, I had a few constipation episodes that scared the shit out of me (unfortunately, not literally.)
These typically revolved around “guys weekends.” An environment in which I drank more than usual, ate fried food and pizzas, and got completely knocked out of my routine.
In the first episode, I went two weeks without a bowel movement. Fortunately, I fixed it by loading up my breakfast cereal with fiber (Quaker Oat Squares) and drinking more water.
My second was the scariest. After back-to-back guys weekends, I had gone two and a half weeks without a movement.
Frantically, I began researching how to poop with constipation. I didn’t want to go to the hospital, so I tried everything that Google and the doctors in my life advised.
This meant, taking strong laxatives used for colonoscopy patients. I also increased my water, stopped drinking alcohol, ate tons of vegetables, went for daily runs, and waited.
Thankfully, before I ended up at the hospital, things started moving again. This scare was terrible and made it hard to have fun on my vacation weekends.
My New Friend, Fiber
By the time the next episode showed up, I was wise and nipped it in the bud early on.
After yet another guys weekend, I was four days without heading to the bathroom when I arrived home.
So, the next day, I had Shakeology for all three meals to increase my insoluble fiber intake. And the next day, things were moving again.
The Road to Healthy Digestion
Clearly, I hadn’t been listening to my body nor doing it any favors.
Outside of these extreme episodes that occurred during and after guys weekends, my poop health wasn’t great. I was never entirely regular without the help of coffee.
To improve, I kept a food journal to identify patterns, actively increased my dietary fiber, and started drinking Shakeology daily for breakfast.
Shakeology was then, and is today, crucial to my digestive health. Whenever I get out of routine, it doesn’t matter because it’s so easy to be consistent with this supplement.
Since then, there are thousands of new digestion and gut health supplements out there. Personally, I haven’t tried any of them, so if there’s a product you swear by, please share in the comments.
I have evaluated tons of meal replacement shakes that are similar to Shakeology regarding quality. I really geeked out and analyzed the data (no opinions needed). If you’re interested, here are the best meal replacement products that are comparable to Shakeology.
How to poop Better
Over the last 10 years, I’ve succeeded in improving my poop health through self-experimentation and research.
These are the six things that will help you eliminate constipation, improve your digestive health, and have great poop health.
1. What the Crap?
OK, good question, let’s start there.
Regularity can mean different things to different people. Typically, you should be passing stool between 3 times a day to 3 times a week.
Between that vast range, doctors will generally say you are “regular,” but it will always depend on your body.
My doctor in Dallas (the same one who helped me recover from severe job burnout in my 20’s) told me it’s best to go at least once daily and ideally more than that.
In addition to the frequency, the shape matters too. As shown previously on the types of poop chart, if you’re not consistently types 3 or 4 on the poop chart, take it as a warning sign.
You need to implement the below to work towards a healthier digestive system.
2. Fix It with Fiber
Did you know that 97% of Americans have a fiber deficiency?
The recommended daily minimum is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. Yet, the average American only eats 15 grams of dietary fiber.
For those in the UK, you’re not far behind at 17 grams. Remember, these are the minimums. I regularly consume more than 60 grams of fiber daily (tracked in the MyFitnessPal app).
On top of helping your body move waste, fiber has been linked to weight loss, controlling obesity, reducing Type 2 diabetes, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Fiber is so important to weight loss that we included it in our weight loss challenge as one of the 5 numbers you need to track.
So, what’s the problem with the western diet? Not enough plants.
Fiber is only found in plants, so load up your plate with beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, sprouts, and whole grains to cover both your soluble and insoluble dietary fiber needs.
- 1 cup of lentil soup has 15 grams of fiber
- 1 medium artichoke has 10 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of broccoli has 5 grams of fiber
- 1 scoop of Chocolate Shakeology has 6 grams of fiber
- 1 medium apple has 4 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of lentils has 17 grams of fiber
Over 70% of vegetarians and vegans get enough protein while consuming 3X the fiber of a typical, western omnivore.
If you want some inspiration to eat more plants, this is our favorite documentary.
3. Water Wins
Not sold on the importance of hydration? Try drinking a gallon of water a day for a week. Then you’ll experience the benefits and stay consistent with your new healthy habit.
How do you improve bowel health? Since poop is usually 75% water, hydration is step one.
Not only does water help break down food faster so your body can transport its nutrients, but fiber also pulls water into the colon to form softer stools. Therefore, water reduces constipation.
Also, drinking water increases the volume in your intestines, which causes them to push food along for regular bowel movements, just like a muscle.
As a reminder, the rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water. Therefore, a 150-pound person should drink at least 75 ounces of water a day.
Now, whenever I’m on a guys weekend, I live by the mantra “drink, water, drink, water” and do my best to chug a big glass of water in between every alcoholic beverage.
Not only will your liver and head thank you for it, so will your gut. It will also help you not have hangovers.
4. Make an Effort to Exercise
Who else here has needed to rush to the bathroom after (or during) a workout, particularly a long run?
That’s not by accident. When you’re moving, the extra oxygen and blood pumping throughout your body aids in digestion and also works out the muscles around your abdomen and intestines.
Getting things moving with your body also means getting things moving with your digestion.
As another side perk, exercise has been shown to reduce stress, which can also factor into constipation. What can’t exercise do?
Some exercises are better than others when it comes to digestion. Aerobic activities (cardio) such as walking, jogging, and light biking stimulates muscles in your digestive tract.
Yoga and tai chi also help because many moves massage your digestive tract (like the yoga pose, seated spinal twist).
If you’re not in the mood to exercise, you need to work at a standing desk. At the very least, this will lengthen your insides and let gravity do its job.
5. Become a Probiotics Pro
Probiotics are healthy bacteria similar to the ones already living in your digestive tract. They are like a special forces team that combats the effects of a poor diet and stress.
They are critical to improving your poop health and even out imbalances in the intestinal flora. Therefore, probiotics are common treatments for both constipation and diarrhea.
So, rather than getting a fecal transplant to increase probiotics and improve gut health, we recommend beginning with some of our favorite probiotic foods.
- Shakeology, which contains probiotic digestive enzymes
- Yogurt or kefir for breakfast (learn how to make kefir at home)
- Tempeh for lunch or dinner
- Kimchi, pickles, or sauerkraut as a side dish
- Drink kombucha or apple cider vinegar
Add these into your diet. And if you want to add Shakeology to your diet, your insides will thank you.
But, make sure you read our Shakeology review first. It’s not for everyone.
6. Plan Ahead
A lot of times, people get out of whack when they are out of routine.
Be proactive and make a plan to avoid excessively sugary and processed foods and eat as many greens as possible.
Planning ahead means bringing healthy snacks and water along, setting aside time for activity, and scoping out healthy food options.
If you want to improve your poop health, you need to up your planning game since we all get knocked out of routine.
7. Have a Digestive Health Ritual
One way you can improve your poop health is by making pre-breakfast drinks to prep your digestive tract.
Our daily ritual starts with this digestive drink. This is also what we use to break our intermittent fasting schedule.
- One cup of hot water
- One half a lemon squeezed (excites digestive enzymes)
- Two caps full of apple cider vinegar (balances pH levels in the gut for healthy bacteria growth)
- A pinch of cinnamon (to stabilize blood sugar levels).
We also have some favorite digestive health foods. Adding chia seeds to our smoothies a few times a week has become a ritual!
They are loaded with fiber and expand when soaked in water. In a sense, they scrub the inside of your digestive tract to promote regularity.
The best way to eat chia seeds is through soaking to absorb the most nutrients.
- Mix 1/3rd cup seeds with 2 cups of water or coconut/almond milk
- Soak them for at least 2 hours, or overnight to form a gel
- Consume within 3 days
We hope this article has helped you understand what your poop says about your health.
If your poop is healthy, your gut is healthy. Therefore, you are healthy. Don’t stress if you’re not a perfect 3 every day on the poop health chart.
However, make it your goal and follow our advice to help you poop better.
If you have any tips or advice that would help other readers, please share your experience in the comments. Thanks in advance for contributing!
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