Discussing toilet habits is not high on the list of enjoyable pass times for most, however in terms of health, understanding our bowel habits is a valuable tool and deserves some attention. You may find yourself wondering "Is my poo normal?"
The characteristics of your stool - shape, size, colour and odour - can all provide insight into how well your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is functioning, and may also indicate digestive problems such as allergies, intolerances, infections & parasites just to name a few. Simply taking a moment to observe the state of your stool before flushing is beneficial.
To assist with this task, the Bristol Stool Chart shown below, was created to help people distinguish normal and abnormal stools, and is a handy tool to help you learn what you're aiming for.
- Types 1 and 2: Hard or impacted stools may indicate constipation.
- Types 3 and 4: Ideal.
- Type 5 and 6: Loose stool. Suboptimal, may indicate frequency and urgency.
- Type 7: Diarrhoea.
Your stools should be a medium to light brown, easy to pass (no straining or pain), no offensive odour (worse than usual), and should be a smooth, solid structure rather than loose or watery. People can sometimes experience abdominal discomfort, bloating, or changes in bowel habits (urgency, cramping, straining) and stool formation. If you are ever concerned about the state of your bowel habits, seek advice from a health professional.
Dietary changes and nutritional support can help improve bowel health for many individuals. Further tests may be conducted to assess any potential underlying causes of digestive disturbance that may require specific treatment. If you notice any blood in the stool or rectal bleeding – bright red of very dark, seek medical attention.