As the story goes, Everybody Poops. But not everyone's poop looks the same. Our bodies have a unique way of telling us when something isn't quite right—and sometimes, they do this by changing the color, shape, or smell of stool.
Whether you, your kids, or the entire family is experiencing digestive issues, it's a good idea to understand the different types of poop and what they mean, so you can discover the cause and find some relief.
Wondering how to know if your poop is healthy?
Before we can answer this, let's first discuss how professionals in the medical field classify the different types of poop we produce every day.
Types of Poop
Have you ever heard of the Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS)? It might not be the prettiest chart you've ever laid eyes on, but it sure comes in handy. Especially when you need to figure out whether your kids are experiencing regular vs. irregular bowel movements.
Developed by Dr. Kenneth Heaton in 1997, the BSFS is a medical diagnostic tool that is still used today by professionals in order to categorize stool into one of seven unique categories.
Type 1: Separate hard lumps
When your child goes #2, does it look like tiny pebbles? According to the BSFS, this is a sign of constipation.
You may notice that your kids are having difficulty passing these pebbles, as well, making them less than eager to show up for potty time:
"Pebble poop can be distressing for babies and young children. They may fear that passing the stool will hurt, and they might refuse to have a bowel movement," (Medical News Today).
Type 2: Sausage shaped and lumpy
Though not as severe as type 1, type 2 may still signal occasional constipation issues. The shape is correct in terms of healthy looking poop (see types 3 & 4), but the lumps indicate an underlying issue and can make the experience of passing stool harder to achieve.
Why does poop get lumpy?
This actually occurs during the digestion process. When food passes through your body, the colon will absorb some of its water.
But imagine your food passing through the digestive system at a slower speed. That would mean it's spending more time in the colon, losing most of its water. Eventually, it becomes dry and hard, making it more difficult to pass (Medical News Today).
Type 3 (Sausage shape with cracks) & Type 4 (Sausage or snake shape, smooth, and soft)
To answer the question, "how do I know if my poop is healthy?", you can simply look at types 3 and 4 on the BSFS. These two are considered the "standard" when it comes to achieving a successful bowel movement.
The shape, color, and texture also allow the stool to be held together, making it easier to pass.
Type 5: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges
If your child's poops don't take on the snake-like shape, but instead, appear to be more like blobs that maybe pass a little too easily, this could be a sign of low fiber. Note: this is not considered diarrhea.
Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool
Though lumpy stool can spell digestion troubles for your kids, loose stool does the same. Soft, mushy stool with ragged edges is often a sign of inflammation in the stomach or intestines.
Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces
If your child's stool is completely liquid, meaning there is no trace of solids anywhere, this is often a sign of an underlying issue, which may include an illness, food poisoning, poor digestion, or even stress.
Unlike the pebbles in type 1 that passed too slowly through the colon, types 6 and 7 passed too quickly, meaning your colon cannot absorb any water, resulting in more liquid in the stool.
Types 6 and 7 may also take on a lighter color.
What color should poop be?
Although we didn't get too specific on the different types of poop colors, it's important to note that healthy poop should be a light-to dark brown hue.
This indicates that your food passed through the digestive system at a desirable pace:
"A pigment called bilirubin is created when a protein called hemoglobin breaks down in the liver. From there, the bilirubin enters the intestines, and if a healthy digestive system allows it to travel through the intestines at a normal speed, it achieves the typical brown color we associate with poop," (UnityPoint Health).