Poop 101: A Guide to Gut Health, Common Problems, and Simple Solutions

Guest post by: Ben Greenfield

Although it’s not the sexiest thing in the world, we’re going to talk about poop. If you don’t already look in the toilet after going number two, it’s time to start. The state of your poop can tell you a plethora of things about your health, with no extra money or effort required. Just get over the whole looking at your own poop thing.

In this article, I’m going to tell you about the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy poop, what it can tell you about your health, some of the common causes of unhealthy poop, and a few tips you can use to increase the health of your stool and your digestive system.

Scientists are continuing to learn that the gastrointestinal tract (and the bacterial colonies within) has a direct role in conditions ranging from emotional disorders like depression and schizophrenia, brain function, food sensitivities and allergies, inflammation, digestive function, and more. The thing is, sometimes there are no clear signs that something is amiss with your digestive system. Symptoms can be muted and mild, or you may have no noticeable symptoms whatsoever. Just as a canary in a coalmine can be a reliable litmus test for safety, a turd in a toilet bowl can give you some useful clues about the health of your digestive system.

Without further adieu, let’s talk about poo.

Poop Quality 101

When looking at your stool, it helps to know what you should be looking for. In case you didn’t know, a few researchers from Bristol University developed a stool chart that was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 1997. It was originally developed as a way to measure colon transmit time, but later earned its place as a reliable tool in evaluating different treatment strategies for various bowel diseases. The so-called Bristol stool chart has also been a valuable tool in public health as it classifies poop into seven different types:

-Type 4 is what you want to shoot for.

-Types 3 and 5 are reasonable.

-Types 1, 2, 6, and 7 are all clear signs that strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

The Bristol chart is a good place to start, and if your stool resembles one of the less healthy types, there are a few other signs to look for to help you better identify a problem.


Healthy stool should be brown in color, which comes from bile in the small intestine. However, it’s normal for it to have a tinge of green if you’ve consumed a massive kale smoothie, or red if you’ve eaten a lot of beets. If your stool is bloody, or is consistently a different color with no logical connection to the foods you’re eating, there might be something going on.


Your poop will never smell like the potpourri you keep by the toilet, that’s just the way it is. Poop smells for a number of reasons. The bacteria and fermentation that occur in the gut are one smell-producing reason, and depending on what you eat, that might affect the smell. If you eat a lot of fermentable starches, fructose, and animal protein, it’s probably going to be pretty potent and sulphuric. Another common cause of abnormally putrid stool is malabsorption. Celiac disease, pancreas issues, various inflammatory bowel disorders like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, food allergies and sensitivities are all possible causes of malabsorption, which we’ll get into later.


Your bathroom experience should be pretty quick if your stool is healthy. You shouldn’t be sitting on…

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