Is Your Poo Normal?

Written by Clare Carrick ANutr BHSc (Nutrition and Health Promotion)

Scientifically reviewed by Dr Fathalla Ali, PHD Paediatrics

13/06/2022

Poop, number two, turd, doodoo, crap, ca-ca, dookie, or ‘dropping the kids off at the pool’… whatever you like to call it, pooping is a fact of life.

But, while your poo is hopefully making a regular appearance, your conversations about it are likely to be less frequent, meaning that there can end up being some serious knowledge gaps surrounding this incredibly important bodily function!

An Indication of Your Gut Health
Did you realise that your poo is a window into the state of your gut microbiome? And that analysing your own poo can give you a little sneak peak into what your gut bugs are getting up to, inside there?

For example, people who have looser, more diarrhoea-like stools have been shown to have a lower richness of gut bug species than those with more solid, well-formed poops (1).

We know that a higher level of gut bug richness and diversity can indicate a more resilient and stable gut microbiome, which is associated with a lower risk for ill health and disease (1, 2).

There is also evidence that the consistency of your poo can give you a little hint as to which bacterial species is most prevalent in your gut (1).

Researchers have noticed that those who often have loose stools are more likely to have a Prevotella-dominated gut, whilst those with hard stools usually fit into the Ruminococcaceae-Bacteroides-dominated group (1).

Whilst it’s still unclear whether your poo type causes the increase/decrease of specific gut bug species, or whether the abundance and presence of different species cause the different poo types, these results still highlight the importance of scrutinising the contents of your toilet bowl as a potential indicator of the bigger picture of your health.

So, What’s Normal?
All this evasiveness around poop means that people don’t always know what ‘normal’ is.

For most people, it’s not the type of convo they choose to strike up with their mate over a morning latté… “Far out, I had to push so hard to get things moving this morning” is just not something most people feel comfortable sharing!

With that in mind, here is a brief outline of some things to consider when undertaking your own poop assessment.

Toilet Time
If you find yourself taking longer than 10-15 minutes to get the job done on the toilet, you may need to consider dietary or lifestyle changes – unless the reason you’re taking this long is because you’re completing the latest Wordle!

Every Day?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to poo every day to be healthy. Generally, however, healthy people will go somewhere between every second day, and 3 times a day.(3)

Colours of the Rainbow
Brown is the colour we associate with poo, and rightly so. However, if you are seeing other colours like red, green, or blue, think back to what you’ve eaten in the last little while. Often beetroot, a bunch of spinach, or a mountain of blueberries can be held responsible. If your poop is black or bright red, see your doctor to rule out anything more sinister (4).

Bog Like a Log
You want your poo to come out in the shape of a log – not a stream, and not small little pellets. It should pass comfortably and be softish, but firm. If your poo regularly swings to either end of the spectrum, it may indicate issues with your digestion and gut health.

The Bristol stool chart, below, is a very useful tool for identifying how ‘normal’ your poo is (5). Type 1 and 2 are considered to be abnormally hard, whereas types 6 and 7 are abnormally soft (5). Types 3, 4, and 5 are typical of healthy people, and can therefore be considered ‘normal’ (5).


Bristol Stool Chart

Figure 1 – The Bristol Stool Form Scale. Reproduced by kind permission of the late Dr K W Heaton, Reader in Medicine at the University of Bristol. © 2000 Norgine Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (5)


In the end…

Whether you’re someone who believes that ‘poo talk’ is TMI, or you’re the one who loves to loudly declare your bowel movements to your mates, an understanding of your pooping habits can help you get more in touch with your overall health, and the impact that your diet and lifestyle are having on it.

Try taking a quick poo peek before you flush!

References

  1. Vandeputte D, Falony G, Vieira-Silva S, Tito RY, Joossens M, Raes J. Stool consistency is strongly associated with gut microbiota richness and composition, enterotypes and bacterial growth rates. Gut. 2016 Jan 1;65(1):57-62.
  2. Lozupone CA, Stombaugh JI, Gordon JI, Jansson JK, Knight R. Diversity, stability and resilience of the human gut microbiota. Nature. 2012 Sep;489(7415):220-30. 
  3. Walter SA, Kjellström L, Nyhlin H, Talley NJ, Agréus L. Assessment of normal bowel habits in the general adult population: the Popcol study. Scandinavian journal of gastroenterology. 2010 May 1;45(5):556-66. 
  4. Kasırga E. The importance of stool tests in diagnosis and follow-up of gastrointestinal disorders in children. Turkish Archives of Pediatrics/Türk Pediatri Arşivi. 2019;54(3):141.
  5. Blake MR, Raker JM, Whelan K. Validity and reliability of the Bristol Stool Form Scale in healthy adults and patients with diarrhoea‐predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics. 2016 Oct;44(7):693-703.

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