Brown, tan, mushy, pelleted, black, hard, soft - what exactly does healthy poop look like? Poop is not a subject most people like to talk about, but the consistency, color, and frequency of bowel movements indicate general health. Understanding what constitutes healthy poop (and when poop is an indicator of the need to go visit the doctor) is essential to keep generally healthy.
Consistency of Poop
The general consistency of healthy poop is soft, but it should stick together. It should not float (this can indicate issues in the digestive system), but should sink slowly to the bottom of the toilet bowl. If it sinks too quickly, this can indicate that there is not enough fiber in the diet. The size of the poop should be four to eight inches long, and it should not stick to the side of the toilet bowl, but flush easily.
Color of Poop
The ideal color of poop is dark-yellow to tan to light brown. Some people compare it to the color of cardboard, others to a lightly stained wood. Either way, brown is the way to go, and green, black, or other colored poop can indicate that something else is at work in the digestive system, be it dietary or medical. In addition, your poop should be basically the same color each time you have a bowel movement. If your poop is discolored once or twice it is unlikely to be a major issue, but continued discoloration of stool could indicate a problem.
Frequency of Bowel Movements
While each person's body is different, having regular bowel movements is imperative to maintaining digestive and overall health. At the very least, individuals should poop once a day. Less frequently than once a day indicates that food is sitting in the intestines or other parts of the digestive tract for prolonged periods of time, a danger to digestive health. Less frequent bowel movements can also be larger and more difficult to pass, putting additional strain on the body.
How to Keep Your Poop Healthy
Healthy poop can usually be helped through regular exercise and a steady, balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, and proteins. Stress can also cause irregular poop and timing of bowel movements, but keeping track of poop's consistency, color, and frequency can help diagnose when something else is wrong, besides a change in habit or diet. If poop is soft, pencil-thin, pellet-like, discolored, or a person is frequently constipated, a doctor should be consulted to determine the root cause.
Sources: Tresca, Amber J. "Unusual Colors of Stool." About.com, 8 April 2010. Accessed 3 May 2010.
Wong, Cathy. "Stool - Healthy and Unhealthy Stool." About.com, 31 May 2009. Accessed 3 May 2010.