What does a good poo look like?

Everybody poops. And chances are, there's a lot about your bowel movements that you never knew or bothered to ask. ‍

What does a good poo look like?

Everybody poops. And chances are, there's a lot about your number two that you never knew or bothered to ask. ‍

While discussing our toilet habits isn't the most exciting topic to bring up at a dinner party, it may teach you a lot about your health. Your poop's size, texture, and colour can reveal a lot about what's going on inside your body. You'll learn whether you're getting enough fibre and water, and whether your digestive tract is processing meals too slowly or too rapidly.

Most people don’t look at their poo, and many don’t know what it SHOULD look like. Firstly, poo is a normal part of the digestive process and pooping is a perfectly natural, and necessary body function. It may seem unpleasant at first, but studying your poo might help you better understand your own gut health.

What is poo?

The formation of poo consists of waste products that our body needs to get rid of. It is the waste that remains after food has been digested and its nutrients absorbed by our bodies. It includes water, undigested foods, Bacteria, fibre, bile and other things.

Fibre comes from plants and isn’t broken down in the digestive system. It adds bulk to food and aids in the passage through the digestive tract. If you eat a low fibre diet, you may suffer from regular constipation as the stool will move slowly through the bowel, and more fluid will be extracted from the stool.

Bile is made in the liver; it is yellowish-green and breaks down large fat clusters into smaller lumps.

What should your poo look like?

Poo can vary in colour, quantity, texture, and of course odour, not only from person to person and between everyone’s episode of passing the stool.

If you ask people, they often say it’s brown, smelly, hard, or soft, but sadly, that is not enough information.

Did you know your poo or stool should be a shade of brown? But it doesn’t stop there. A pale brown stool, a bit like clay in colour, may indicate you have a problem with your liver or pancreas. Now, while we say brown is best, you may also see hues of green, which can also be ok.

A normal poo looks a bit like a soft, smooth sausage, or it may be sausage-shaped with cracks on the surface.

So, what does a healthy poo look like?

Colour: Brown, stomach bile, and bilirubin, the by-product of the breakdown of red blood cells, causing the brown colour.

Shape: Your poo should be a sausage or log shape. The shape is determined by the passage through the bowel.

Size: This will vary, but it should be an elongated and roughly around 4-5 cm in length

Consistency: Your stool should be between soft and firm. You expect it to be formed but not hard. You shouldn’t need to strain to pass a stool.

If your poo is hard clumps, this may indicate you are not having enough water, and mushy poo may be a sign of infection.

However, don’t be confused; what you eat also impacts what you eliminate. For instance, if you eat beetroot, your stool may appear to have blood in it. If you have spicy food, you may have diarrhea. Each of these is fine as long as these symptoms don’t persist.

How often should you pass a stool?

So how often should you poo?

This is a very tricky question to answer. Some people go daily, others every second or third day, while others go several times a day. What is normal for one person will seem abnormal for another.

The times to be concerned are when there are changes to the frequency and or consistency of the stool for no apparent reason.

Bristol stool chart

Dr Ken Heaton developed the Bristol stool chart in 1997. It was designed to reference what a healthy poo should look like visually.

Types 1 and 2 indicate constipation
3-4 are classed as normal
5-6 are classed as minor diarrhoea
Type 7 is classed as diarrhoea

Your poo can tell you all sorts of things about your gut and overall health. Next time you pass a stool, remember to check it out.

How you sit on the toilet also aids in elimination:

Your feet should be flat on the floor; you should lean forward with your hands resting on your thighs. Your knees should be bent and higher than your hips. Place a small step under your feet may be needed but remember to keep those feet flat. 

Let’s discuss some good toilet habits

1. Don’t put off going to the toilet. If you do this, the stool can retract up in the bowel, and moisture is continually being extracted, leading to constipation.

2. Don’t rush your time on the toilet; this can lead to straining or incomplete emptying, leading to the above.

3. Ensure to use the correct posture as illustrated in the picture.

4. Drink plenty of fluids and keep up with fibre in your diet.

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