The Bristol Stool Chart: A Poop Ranking SystemPublished on Thursday, January 20, 2022 by
Holy Crap, what a year it’s been!
As far as I’m concerned there’s no better way to kick off 2022 than by a piece of content exclusively devoted to human poop.
My goal is to have you ringing in a Happy Poo Year by the time we’re done here.
Let’s get right to it.
Let’s get a few basic details out of the way courtesy of a 2010 paper Scandinavian Journal Of Gastroenterology:
Almost 100% of people poop in between three times a day and three times per week, but not all poops are good ones.
According to that study, 1 in 4 bowel movements come out too hard or too loose (more on this in a moment) with up to half of the respondents reporting urgent, strained or incomplete movements.
This second point underlines the fact that when it comes to poops, quality is just as important as quantity.
That’s where the Bristol stool chart comes in.
The Bristol Chart
Named after the British city it was developed in, the Bristol Chart is essentially a clinical tool used to measure the quality of your poop for scientific purposes including as part IBS diagnosis.
Pictured below, you will notice the chart “scores” your poop on a 1-7 scale where essentially the lower the number, the harder the poop.
Too Hard (1-2) - Hard stools may take more time and effort to pass and indicate constipation.
Just Right (3-4) - A “normal” bowel movement tends to be snake or sausage like and easy to pass.
Too Soft (5-7): Bowel movements that are too soft may range from blotty to almost entirely liquid, the latter tending to indicate diarrhea.
Doctor’s will use this type of information about your poops as part of the process of an IBS diagnosis.
IBS-C ( IBS with constipation) may be diagnosed with >25% of a person’s poops are too hard ( score: 1-2) and <25% are too soft ( 5-7) whereas an IBS-D ( BS with diarrhea) entails the opposite.
But what can YOU do with this information?
Although the Bristol Chart is a clinical tool, it can certainly help someone have a better understanding of whether or not the bulk of their bowel movements are of the “ideal” quality.
The quality and quantity of one’s bowel movements can fluctuate for a variety of reasons ranging from sleep to stress to activity level, diet, water intake and even and certain medications (like antibiotics, which can cause diarrhea) can play a role as well.
Although gut health is a highly individual subject matter, there are some basic things you can do as a starting point.
Move More - Optimal bowel function is at least partially dependent on adequate physical activity, with a preliminary study demonstrating that individuals with IBS who walked 10,000 vs 4,000 steps daily being less likely to have troublesome symptoms when passing their stool.
Drink More - General daily fluid recommendations for men are 3.7 L and women 2.7 L daily, with about 20% of that total coming from food and the rest coming for commonly consumed fluids like water, coffee and tea.
Eat More (Soluble Fiber) - Soluble fiber is a unique form of dietary fiber that absorbs water in the digestive tract thereby making your poop soft and easier to pass. It’s found in rich supply in foods such as ground flax/chia, tofu, edamame, lentils, zucchini, green beans, carrots, oranges, berries, oatmeal, quinoa, sweet potato among others.
Relax More – Ever heard of the gut-brain connection? Well, it basically tells us that what’s going on in your head affects what’s coming out of your backside.
Daily meditation is a good entry point to better relaxation practices, which have been demonstrated to reduce symptoms in adults living with IBS.
Beyond The Basics
When things are going smoothly [pun intended], pooping is pretty straightforward.
But it doesn’t always work that way, and often unique circumstances arise which can temporarily or more chronically interfere with the quality of your bowel movements.
In certain situations supplementation may improve your poop with products like psyllium fiber (a strong form of soluble fiber) and probiotics (in certain contexts) also demonstrating some potential to improve bowel movement quality.
Long story short, there’s a ton of crap going on here and we’ve only just scratched the surface.
If today’s post has you concerned about your poop, it may be time to speak with a professional.
---Until next time!
Looking to add more soluble fiber to your diet? Here are a couple of options to check out:
Andy De SantisMPH, RD