Yes, you read that title right: today we’re talking about poop.
I think it’s a commonly misunderstood aspect of our bodily function, and being that I’m emetophobic and in a emetophobia support group on Facebook, poop is a regularly discussed topic.
I joked about a year ago about making an article titled just as this one is, but never did anything with it. But, now that I’m writing again and wanting to put good into this world, I figured now is just as good of a time as ever.
So, without further ado (this might be a pun), let’s learn about poop.
What is Poop?
Before we can do any other kind of learning, we have to understand what poop is.
Poop is literally just whatever is left after your body extracts the valuable nutrients and resources from the food and water we ingest. In simple terms, it’s just whatever is left after our intestines have taken what it needs. Sometimes, our food moves too quickly through our intestines which causes a lack of absorption (called diarrhea), and in other times, our intestines absorb too much, making it hard to pass or almost unpassable (called constipation).
All poop tells a story of what your body is going through, so we’re going to make sure to touch on all areas of that to help you feel less concerned about your bowels.
Let’s Talk About Normal
I’m a huge proponent of normal is whatever is typical for you, but in this case, there is a level of normalcy that you should be looking for when it comes to your poop. According to Healthline (and several other sources I researched through), you are looking for the following characteristics of “normal” poop:
- Color. Your poop should be brown, and not just any brown: Bilirubin brown. Bilirubin is the shade of the pigment compound that is created when red blood cells break down in the body. Now you know, you’re welcome Internet. We’ll get to this more in depth shortly.
- Shape. Typically, your poop should be log shaped, but even normal poops have variance. Really, what you’re looking for is a nice cylindrical log. Wow, these are words I thought I’d never be typing.
- Size. You don’t want anything too small, too thin, too large. Just like the Three Bears, you want something that is just right. I feel wrong for soiling (more poop puns, God help us all) such a classic children’s story.
- Consistency. Look, I don’t know what tell you here other than if your poop looks like soup or soft serve, it’s not considered “normal”. It can range between firm and kind of soft, but it shouldn’t be too far on either end of the spectrum.
- Length (of time). I bet y’all were thinking I was about to say length of your poop. That’s just nasty. No one is measuring poop. Except maybe a poop scientist. It’s still nasty though. Please don’t measure your poop.Anyways, a normal, healthy poop should only take about a minute or two to pass, and you shouldn’t be sitting there longer than 10-15 minutes. Anything longer than that and you’re likely constipated. Or, just sitting there watching Fail compilations on YouTube. It’s really hard to know for sure.
- Frequency. How often you poop is actually super important. Most people have a normal poop schedule that their body adheres to every day, and you’ll likely find they poop around the same time no matter what. In fact, a healthy person likely poops anywhere between every other day and three times a day.Pooping less than once in a 2-3 day span is not normal, but doesn’t necessarily indicate a life threatening issue. Same with pooping more often than 3 times a day; it may not be normal, but it doesn’t mean there are any serious underlying factors. Though, if it helps to ease your mind, most of the reasons are not serious and range from dehydration and stress, to bowl disorders like IBS-C or your period (for our period having humans).
The Bristol Stool Scale
So, here comes the fun part. The Bristol Stool Scale (BSS) was created to help identify six different types of stools, and what they usually indicate for your health. You can find a photo of the BSS here, or really you can just google BSS and find a ton of examples. They’re not as cute as the one I linked you, but I mean, to each their own.
So, let’s talk about how the BSS classifies your poops.
- Type 1 (Constipation). When you’re constipated, typically going is tough (OH GOD, ANOTHER ONE), but when you do go while constipated you’ll notice that you’re likely going to see pellets, lumps, or marble shaped poops. They’ll be hard to pass, and they shouldn’t happen often.
- Type 2 (Mild Constipation). Lumpy logs are not a sign of healthy poops. It essentially is a sign of constipation, but here’s the good news: lumpy logs are closer to normal, which means you’re on the right path.
- Type 3 (Normal). The holy grail of poops. All poops desire to be this poop. It’s log shaped, normal colored, and easy to pass. Also there are cracks on the surface but they aren’t fractured off. Yeah, we’re actually talking about this.
- Type 4 (Normal). While not the gold star poop of Type 3, these snake like poops are still considered normal, and apparently should be happening every couple of days (1-3 to be exact). That said, the lack of snek poops is probably fine too.
- Type 5 (Less Normal). I kind of made up the name of Type 5 because the name they have is Amoebas and I feel like as cool as that name is, it’s not scientific. Anyways, the concept of Type 5 is essentially poops with clear cut edges that are similar to Type 1, but are easy to pass and are soft. Basically? You lack fiber, so up that fiber intake and you’ll be back to Gold Star pooping in no time.
- Type 6 (Mild Diarrhea). I was only half joking when I told you that your poop shouldn’t look like soft serve. The best way to describe it is it looks like the delicious frozen treat, but honestly don’t think too much about it or else you’ll have a hard time eating FroYo again. Typically, it’s fluffy and mushy, but can also have a softer and looser consistency.
- Type 7 (Diarrhea). If you are going and it’s completely watery, this is true diarrhea. Your stool moved too quickly through your bowels, which could be caused by many factors, most of which aren’t serious or any reason for concern. Another fun fact: most American’s have 2-3 bouts of “no cause” diarrhea a year. That number is an average, but can fluctuate based on many external factors.
Other Poop Factors To Consider
So, at this point, let’s just talk a little more in depth about some of the other factors of poop to consider. The first thing I want to touch on is color. We briefly explained what healthy poop should look like, but a very common question people have is what the color of your poop means.
And, if I know anything from panic googling that information on my own, it’s that it will always tell you you’re dying. What I’ve done is take out the panic, and added a couple more of the reasons for why your poop could be off colored.
- Black. So I think if many people see black poop they’re going to immediately assume it’s dangerous, but I have some good news for you: black poop can be caused by a lot of less threatening reasons. If you eat licorice, take iron supplements, or have been taking Pepto Bismol (or other bismuth meds), that could explain your darker poops. If that doesn’t seem like what you’ve been doing lately, it could mean bleeding in the intestinal tract, but before you immediately panic remember that typically that would be associated with other symptoms. But, as always, if you have a concern consult with your doctor.
- Green. Full green isn’t exactly what we’re looking for when it comes to healthy, but if your poop has hints of green but is still predominantly brown, it’s not green poop. Brown poop with hints of green is considered normal still, so if you’re worried about that, at least its out of the way now.Now, green poop, while not normal, usually has very little cause for concern. If you’ve been eating a lot of leafy greens, or even just heavily green pigmented foods, your poops will likely turn green. It’s also just a sign that your food has passed too quickly and it didn’t have time to absorb. Bile salts are the cause for green poop, so typically green poop is just a sign that you didn’t pick up the bilirubin and you’re likely fine.
- Pale, White or Clay Colored. Now, I’m not going to lie to you, this coloration is usually something that requires a doctor but before you panic, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Pale, white or clay colored poops typically indicate that you’re lacking bile, and bile comes from the gallbladder and liver. So, if you’re having stools this color, it may not be a bad idea to just get your liver and gallbladder checked. That said, some medications (especially anti diarrhea meds) can cause white, pale or clay colored poops.
- Red. I think the first and most obvious reason for red poops would be blood or bleeding. That said, if your poop does have blood in it, and it’s red, it’s usually nothing to panic heavily over. Typically red poops are the sign of hemorrhoids or bleeding in the lower intestinal tract. That said though, a diet that’s heavy in reds (like beets, cranberries, red gelatin, or tomato juice) can also tint your poop red. If you’re concerned, always consult a doctor.
- Yellow. Poops of this color are usually greasy, smell terrible, and are a sign you’ve got way too much fat in your diet. This kind of poop can also be an indication of Celiac’s disease or some other malabsorption issue. Bottom line? Go see a doctor if you’re experiencing these poops. They’ll be pretty obvious to you, and if you have to ask, it likely isn’t. So at least there’s that!
The last thing I want to discuss around poop is this: when in doubt, call a doctor. Most cases of abnormal poops have causes that are not serious in nature. People with anxiety or high levels of stress may see changes in poop frequency and consistency. Not eating enough and not being well hydrated can cause diarrhea, and this is especially true for people who aren’t eating the right foods.
Drastic changes in diet, schedule, or routine can cause changes in poop habits. It’s why many people who are going through a routine shift for work, school or holiday’s may see a shift in bowel habits.
Plus, people who have IBS-C/D, Celiac, or other illnesses that affect the gastro intestinal tract may see changes in bowl habits. These usually require doctor diagnosis, but if that is something that you deal with, having abnormal bowel movements may be your normal, and that’s fine too.
Like I said, when in doubt, call a doctor. But, in most cases this is the information you need to help determine if your poops are healthy or verging on unhealthy!
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