BiotiQuest® Gut Health & Probiotics Blog with Martha Carlin

What Your Poop Says About Your Gut Health

Martha Carlin | Jun 24, 2024 | 11 minute read

As the ultimate by-product of your digestive process, your poop is a leading indicator of your overall health. Color, consistency and frequency speak volumes about your digestive wellness. The Bristol Stool scale was developed in 1997 as a clinical and research tool for classifying a bowel movement on a scale of 1-7. Understanding what your poop is telling you may hold the secrets to a happier, healthy you. Join us as we uncover these signs with expert insights and evidence-based research, to guide you to a deeper understanding to support a healthier gut. This article isn’t just a discussion - it’s a journey towards wellness, reminding you that every trip you take to the toilet is a chance to reconnect with your internal ecosystem for deeper understanding to improve your overall health.

Bowel Movements

Your bowel movements are key indicators of your digestive health. The frequency, consistency, and appearance of your poop can indicate certain aspects about your gut health. Consistency is one of the main indicators of overall digestive health- too soft is an indication that food is passing too quickly through the digestive system, too hard means exactly the opposite. Slow transit time means that waste is sitting inside and your immune system is having to deal with this waste for a longer period of time.

According to the Australian Health Direct, black poop may indicate certain medication use like iron supplements or undigested food. Light to dark brown stool may indicate a healthy poop. Clay or pale color may indicate issues with the pancreas or coeliac disease. Orange may indicate antacid usage or blocked bile guts. Regular bowel movements typically ranging from three times a day to three times a week are generally considered normal according to a research by the Cleveland Clinic. The ideal Bristol stool scale consistency is 3-4.

Healthy Gut Microbiome

A healthy gut microbiome is crucial for your overall health and wellbeing. The gut microbiome consists of the community of bacteria, fungi, and viruses in your gastrointestinal tract. The microbiome has a major role in the digestion of foods in your stomach, immune function and even your overall mental wellness. A balanced microbiome helps in absorption of nutrients, and even prevention of pathogens. If there are slight imbalances in this balanced ecosystem of bacteria, humans may experience problems with food digestion, obesity, inflammatory disease, and even depression. A healthy gut microbiome can be detected from your stool as described above. So, it’s important to understand common causes or the many factors contributing to a healthy gut microbiome.

Stool Sample

Analyzing your stool sample can provide a wealth of information about your digestive health. Health tests can help you detect infections, digestive disorders, constipation, and even early signs of underlying serious conditions like colon cancer or colorectal cancer. For instance, the presence of blood in the stool may indicate gastrointestinal bleeding from hemolytic bacteria  while the presence of certain bacteria may indicate an imbalance in the gut flora and increased production of endotox.

Gram-negative bacteria produce endotoxins that can poke holes in the lining of the gut causing what is known as leaky gut. Stool tests can identify the presence of Gram-negative bacteria.  Some stool tests also provide information regarding vitamin and short chain fatty acid production.  Of particular importance is the guts ability to produce the short chain fatty acid butyrate.  Butyrate feeds the cells lining the gut and helps support the protective barrier. Functional medicine doctors are more likely to be trained in evaluating a stool test than conventional allopathic physicians. The presence of Fusobacteria in stool tests is a potential indicator of risk of colon cancer.

Healthy Stool

Most readers wonder what defines a normal stool. Well, to answer this question simply, a normal stool is typically medium to dark brown with no visible undigested food particles indicating the presence of bile and proper food breakdown. The right consistency of a normal stool should be smooth and easy to pass - and with a sausage-like shape, number 3 or 4 on the Bristol Stool chart. If your poop meets these standards, it’s a sign that your digestive system is functioning properly. However, constipation, diarrhea, visible undigested food  or frequently finding yourself trying to pass your stool but unable to fully evacuate, may indicate some underlying issues with your digestive system. Proper hydration is important for healthy stools.

  • Hydration and Constipation: A study in the National Institute of Health found that increased water intake improved stool consistency and reduced the need for laxatives in individuals with chronic constipation.
  • Fluid Intake and Bowel Regularity: The BMC Public Health published findings indicating that individuals who consumed higher amounts of water had a lower prevalence of constipation and reported better overall digestive health.

Bristol Stool Chart

The Bristol Stool Chart is a useful tool for helping you understand your gut health. This chart categorizes poop into seven types, ranging from hard lumps or constipation (type 1) to extremely watery stools or diarrhea (type 7). Types 3 and 4 are considered ideal, indicating a healthy digestive system. This chart helps you identify and discover any irregularities and discuss them with your primary care provider or doctor. You can download your free Bristol Chart pdf here.

Stool Color

Your poop color can provide clues about your health. While medium to brown is the norm, variations may indicate underlying issues in your digestive tract. Green poop can indicate eating certain foods like leafy vegetables or food moving too quickly in your gastrointestinal tract; which may also indicate indigestion. Yellow poop may indicate eating too much fat or malabsorption conditions like celiac disease. Black or red poop may indicate bleeding of the digestive tract or lack of sufficient iron supplements which may necessitate immediate medical attention from your doctor. White or pale poop can be a sign of liver or gallbladder disease.  

Bowel Habits Change

Changes in your bowel frequency, diarrhea, or constipation may be early indicators of bowel problems. Persistent changes in your bowel habits may warrant an immediate discussion with your primary care provider. These signs could be symptomatic of conditions like infections, irritable bowel syndrome, or more serious conditions like colon cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, changes in bowel habits can be early signs of colon cancer. Additionally, a study in the National Centre of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) notes that gastrointestinal infections frequently cause significant changes in bowel patterns. Therefore, it is crucial to investigate any persistent changes to rule out or manage these conditions effectively.

Here are two common explanations about how your bowel regularity impacts your health:

First, let’s take constipation. Constipation is the delayed evacuation of waste from the digestive system. If you think about this from a common sense perspective, we are eating 2-3 times per day and not all of this matter is converted to something that is used by the body so there is waste. If we are creating daily waste but not eliminating it then the waste is just sitting in our intestines fermenting or putrefying. This process can create many toxic byproducts that our other systems must work to clear from the body. An area we have been studying for the past several years is bacterial toxins which can have many detrimental health effects.

Next let’s look at diarrhea. Rapid elimination of waste is the body’s way of trying to rid itself of something harmful, such as a virus or food poisoning. In the short term this is a good thing but over the long term it can be an indication of something more serious. If the food you eat passes quickly through your digestive track then you may not be able to break down and absorb the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

Statistics show roughly 15% of the US population, or 50 million people, suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS can be constipation or diarrhea or some combination of bowel alternating back and forth.

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and can be fatal if not treated early. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) early screening using methods such as fecal immunochemical tests and colonoscopies helps with early detection and treatment of underlying digestive illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome. Changes to observe are changes in your eating habits, unexplained weight loss, and changes in your bowel movement and gastrointestinal behavior.

Fecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT)

The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a non-invasive test for identifying hidden blood in the poop, which can be a crucial indicator of colon cancer or other gastrointestinal issues. Unlike older tests, FIT is more specific, and doesn’t require dietary restrictions. FIT may also be more appropriate in testing lower gastrointestinal bleeding.

Probiotics and Bowel Regularity

Front view of glass bottle containing 30 capsules of Sugar Shift antibiotic supplment.Probiotics are essential for maintaining optimal digestive function and supporting overall gut health. Sugar Shift, our specialized probiotic blend, goes beyond mere metabolic support by actively promoting a balanced gut microbiome. This is critical in light of recent findings linking Fusobacterium, an oral microbe, to increased risks of colon cancer. By fostering the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, Sugar Shift enhances digestive efficiency and aids in the effective elimination of waste. This dual action not only ensures smoother bowel movements but also contributes to a healthier gut environment. The beneficial bacteria in Sugar Shift help break down food, produce essential nutrients, and regulate the immune system in the gut. This comprehensive approach not only supports digestive comfort but also reinforces the body's natural processes for waste elimination, promoting overall wellness from within

Frequently Asked Questions

What does healthy gut poop look like?

Healthy gut poop is often brown, soft, and well-formed. It should be easy to pass without straining, confirming to type 3 and 4 of the Bristol Stool Chart.

What does stress pop look like?

Stress can significantly affect your digestive system, leading to significant alterations in your bowel functioning. Stress poop is more frequent, loose, and urgent, resembling types 5 or 7 of the Bristol Stool Chart. This happens because the stress hormones cortisol may activate intestinal motility.


What is a healthy stool for your gut?

A normal poop should be brown, soft, and shaped like a snake or sausage, as indicated by types 3 and 4 of the Bristol Stool Chart. A normal poop must be easy to pass, without pain or excessive force. Always ensure you drink plenty of water for normal or healthy bowels. A bright red poop may suggest blood in your intestinal lining hence the need for immediate medical attention.

Does a healthy poop float or sink?

Healthy poop generally sinks. A floating poop may indicate the presence of excessive gas or malabsorption of fats which can be early signs of digestive disorders. Floating stools may reflect excessive gas from malabsorption conditions such as chronic pancreatitis and celiac disease. The Mayo Clinic notes that floating stools can result from nutrient absorption issues related to these disorders.

What is a poop test for gut health?

There are various types of stool tests available to assess digestive health. Microbiome-specific tests, for instance, focus on genetic profiling of the stool ecosystem rather than examining fat content or disease-causing organisms. These tests provide detailed insights into the balance of gut flora, which is crucial for understanding issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and overall digestive health. On the other hand, comprehensive stool analysis offers a broader examination, including the presence of excessive fats, disease-causing organisms, and indicators of inflammation or infection. Additionally, tools like the Bristol Stool Chart offer a simple daily method to monitor and maintain gut health.

Can stool tests detect digestive problems?

Yes, poop tests can potentially provide insightful information about any digestive problems. They can help identify inflammations, infections, pathons, excessive fats, and fat malabsorption. Tests are valuable tools for evaluating conditions like Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea and infections.

How do I test my gut health?

There are several methods available to assess the health of your gut. Comprehensive stool tests are effective for detecting infections and assessing the balance of gut flora, providing insights into digestive issues such as constipation and diarrhea. Additionally, breath tests play a crucial role in identifying small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) by measuring hydrogen and methane levels produced by bacteria in the small bowel. This helps diagnose dysbiosis and its impact on stool transit. Blood tests complement these methods by detecting inflammatory markers, offering further insights into overall gut health.

What illnesses can be found in a stool sample?

Stool samples can reveal numerous illnesses, including bacterial, viral, and parasitic illnesses, they may also indicate imbalances in the gut flora ecosystem, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and even malabsorption disorders like celiac disease.

What is the best thing for bowel regularity?

A crucial aspect of your digestive health is the ability to maintain bowel regularity. Traditionally, promoting regularity has been associated with strategies such as regular exercise, adequate fiber intake from sources like avocado, broccoli, and carrots, sufficient fluid intake, and stress management. However, recent dietary approaches like ketogenic and low FODMAP diets have shown that fiber intake may not universally solve irregularity issues. In cases of gut dysbiosis, increased fiber intake can potentially exacerbate the problem by feeding pathogenic bacteria rather than resolving it. Therefore, it's essential to consider individual dietary needs and gut health conditions when aiming to maintain bowel regularity.

What simple trick empties your bowels?

If you're looking to support healthy bowel function, there are several methods to consider beyond just regular bathroom visits. While it's important to maintain a healthy diet and adequate fluid intake, there are also supplements that can aid in a bowel cleanse if constipation is an issue, although they should not be used regularly without addressing the root cause. For instance, two tablespoons of castor oil mixed in warm water typically produce results within about six hours. OxyPowder, a magnesium oxide supplement by Global Healing, and Triphala, an herbal formulation by Himalaya, are also known to support bowel health effectively.

How can I manage my bowel movements effectively?

To achieve regular bowel movements, it's important to adopt a balanced approach. Start by ensuring adequate water and fiber intake, which can help regulate bowel habits effectively. Managing stress levels is also crucial, as stress can impact digestive function. Additionally, establishing a consistent diet and avoiding trigger foods can help alleviate symptoms associated with bowel disorders such as diarrhea or constipation.

What’s a healthy number of bowels per day/week?

Essentially, bowel habits may vary from person to person but generally speaking it is important to eliminate the waste you are producing on a daily basis. If you are only having a bowel movement a few times a week, this is an indication that you may have impaired gut motility or imbalance in the gut microbiome.  It is important to have a Bristol Stool 3-4 bowel movement that is easy to pass and fully evacuates on a daily basis. You may have more than one bowel movement per day of 3-4 but having uncontrolled urgency, incomplete evacuation or bowel movements all day long is an indication of issues that need to be addressed.   .

Get to know your poop!

Understanding what your poop says about your health can help you make informed decisions about your health, diet, lifestyle, and general wellbeing. Your poop sends crucial clues that may indicate underlying gut issues, inflammatory diseases, and gastrointestinal disorders. By paying attention to factors like consistency, frequency, and color, you can detect early signs of potential health issues and take remediative steps towards a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. In our microbiome sampling at The BioCollective, our technicians found that they could tell a person with Parkinson’s just by looking at the stool sample because it was not like any other samples we collected.  So you stool sample can really be a key indicator of your state of health. Early screening such as the Fecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT) are crucial for early detection of serious conditions like colon cancer. Always remember that every trip to the toilet is a chance to connect with your internal ecosystem and make adjustments to a healthier, happier you.

With gratitude,

Martha Carlin photo Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.

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