The Bristol Stool Chart: Is your stool healthy?

While not everyone is comfortable going into great detail about their bathroom habits and regulation, tools such as the Bristol Stool Chart can be a useful benchmark to help you identify any problems with your gut and digestion.

The Bristol Stool Chart describes the typical composition of different types of stool, based on colour and consistency to identify if your faecal matter is normal or if there are some issues with the digestion of your food.  

Even though checking your stool isn’t the most conventional activity, it can help you discover real issues, especially those associated with your gut health. Although the majority will consistently have a “normal” stool, it is a useful insight to know the signs to look out for, to help highlight any issues and make you aware of how to fix them. 

Here are the 7 types of stool consistencies and tips on how to address them:

Type 1 – separate, hard lumps 

These are difficult to pass and cause severe constipation. 

Tip: For a quick fix, try a natural laxative like black or green tea. The caffeine content will stimulate the digestive system and help to relieve constipation symptoms.

As a general rule, make sure to increase your daily water intake to at least 3 litres per day for women and 4 litres for men. Mental stress has a greater impact on our body than we realise. By managing our daily stressors better, we can help prevent this stress from manifesting into our body and impacting our health.

The final tip is to limit your consumption of irritant foods or foods that your body dislikes. Your body will let you know if you are consuming foods, like dairy or gluten, that it cannot process. Usually, it will have a negative impact on your gut, which is a good indicator that you should seek medical advice about food intolerances.

Type 2 – sausage-shaped but lumpy 

A sign of constipation. Lifestyle changes can create a more regular rhythm. 

Tip: The first step is to ensure water intake is at least 3 litres for women and 4 litres for men. Consuming more probiotic foods can help you improve the natural balance of bacteria in the gut, helping to increase stool frequency and consistency.

Get moving more. Research has shown that people who live sedentary lifestyles are more likely to experience constipation than those who are more active.

Type 3 sausage 

Like a sausage, but with cracks on the surface. 

Considered the most ‘ideal’ consistency.

Type 4 – sausage or snake-like, smooth

The Bristol Stool Chart classes type 4 consistency as ‘normal’.  

Type 5 – soft blobs with clear-cut edges 

Passed easily. 

This consistency is likely due to a lack of fibre in your diet. 

Tip: Increase fibre from soluble sources to more dense insoluble sources like brown rice, whole grains, cabbage and broccoli.

Type 6 – fluffy pieces with ragged edges, mushy stool 

The result of inflammation.

You may have eaten something off or had an allergic reaction.

Tip: Refer to your doctor if this happens regularly.  

Type 7 – watery, no solid pieces 

Tip: Watery diarrhoea could mean the small intestine is irritated or you have an infection, if it lasts more than 24-48 hours refer to your doctor.  

As always it is important to consult your doctor if you are experiencing ongoing issues with digestion in case there are any underlying health conditions.  

Although not the most pleasant, the visual test is the best indicator to understand if your stool is healthy. So the next time you pop to the loo, make sure you remember this handy guide.