Sure, everyone poops—but that doesn't mean we like to talk about it or acknowledge it in any way, shape, or form. It also doesn't change the fact that sometimes a trip to the bathroom can leave us scratching our heads, because of, well, our poop's many shapes and forms.
"Your bowel movements are the only real marker you have about what your GI health is like," says gastroenterologist Anish Sheth, MD. Getting familiar with what's normal for you in terms of shape and texture can help you better take care of your body and pick up on any changes that may signal a problem. Here's what your poo says about you—you know you're curious!
1. Separate lumps
Hard poop will often come out in separate lumps and can be painful to pass. When poop is this texture, it's a sign that it sat in the large intestine and colon for an extended period of time. In other words, this type of stool often signals that you're constipated. If this is commonly what you see in the toilet—and you aren't suffering from another illness that comes with funky bowels—you may have a gastrointestinal condition called Chronic Idiopathic Constipation, or CIC. Drinking more water, making exercise part of your daily routine, and slowly adding more fibre to your diet may help.
2. Sausage-shaped but lumpy
Firm stools that are connected but still lumpy can also a sign of constipation. They signal that your waste has hung around in the intestine long enough to become dried out, but not so long that it's dry enough to break into smaller pieces, say UnityPoint Health experts.
3. Sausage-shaped with cracks
If this describes what you're used to seeing when you go to the bathroom, then congrats! This is considered to be a healthy stool, according to The Bristol Stool Chart, a tool used by medical professionals and nutritionists. The cracks, however, do indicate that you may be a bit dehydrated. Robyn Karlstadt, MD, a gastroenterologist at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia, suggests drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily to keep your GI health in tip-top shape. If plain ol' H20 is the last thing you want to sip, consider whipping up one of these fruit- and herb-infused flat belly sassy water recipes.
4. Sausage-shaped, smooth, and soft
Medical pros consider this type of stool to be the gold standard—especially when it's also medium to light brown in colour. If this is what your poop looks like, give yourself a pat on the back because it's a clear sign you're eating a wholesome diet and staying nice and hydrated.
This is considered to be a slightly loose stool, but it's fairly common for folks who have bowel movements two or three times a day, UnityPoint Health medical experts say. If this is normal for you, and it's soft and passes comfortably, consider it A-OK. )
6. Fluffy pieces with ragged edges
When waste passes through the colon quickly, this texture of poop is often the result. According to the Bristol Stool Chart, fluffy, jagged pieces may indicate inflammation of the bowel or an inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Check with your doc to make sure there's no reason to be concerned. Sure, it can be an embarrassing conversation, but when it comes to your health, it's always best to err on the side of caution.
This advanced stage of diarrhoea occurs when the small intestine is irritated. There are numerous causes of this type of stool, including viruses and bacteria, digestive disorders, and lactose intolerance or starting a new medication can be the cause, according to the Mayo Clinic. If your diarrhoea lasts more than two days, contact your doctor.
This article originally appeared on Prevention.