Poop, also known as stool or feces, is a normal part of the digestive process. Poop consists of waste products that are being eliminated from the body. It may include undigested food particles, bacteria, salts, and other substances.
Sometimes, poop can vary in its color, texture, amount, and odor. These differences can be worrying, but usually, these changes are not significant and will resolve in a day or two. Other times, however, changes in poop indicate a more serious condition.
Keep reading to discover more about the different types of poop, including what is and is not normal.
Fast facts on types of poop:
- Poop can come in different shapes, colors, and smells.
- A person should pass a normal, healthy poop easily and with minimal strain.
- Anyone who has blood in their stool should seek urgent medical attention.
Normal poop is generally:
- Medium to dark brown: This is because it contains a pigment called bilirubin, which forms when red blood cells break down.
- Strong-smelling: Bacteria in excrement emit gases that contain the unpleasant odor associated with poop.
- Pain-free to pass: A healthy bowel movement should be painless and require minimal strain.
- Soft to firm in texture: Poop that is passed in one single piece or a few smaller pieces is typically considered to be a sign of a healthy bowel. The long, sausage-like shape of poop is due to the shape of the intestines.
- Passed once or twice daily: Most people pass stool once a day, although others may poop every other day or up to three times daily. At a minimum, a person should pass stool three times a week.
- Consistent in its characteristics: A healthy poop varies from person to person. However, a person should monitor any changes in the smell, firmness, frequency, or color of poop as it can indicate there is a problem.
Image credit: Kylet, 2011.
Devised by doctors in the Bristol Royal Infirmary, England, and based on the bowel movements of nearly 2,000 people, the Bristol stool chart characterizes the different types of poop as shown above.
While brown poop is considered the "normal" color of poop, some greenish-brown hues may also be acceptable.
Poop can be other colors too, such as:
Stools that are black, especially if they have the appearance of coffee grounds, suggest gastrointestinal bleeding. Substances such as iron supplements, black licorice, black stout, and bismuth medications also cause black poop.
If stools are white, gray, or pale, a person may have an issue with the liver or gallbladder as pale stools suggest a lack of bile. Some anti-diarrhea medications cause white stools.
Spinach, kale, or other green foods can cause green poop. However, green-colored stool may be a sign that there is too much bile and not enough bilirubin in the poop.
Poop that is red-colored may be the result of gastrointestinal bleeding. Small amounts of blood in the stool can indicate hemorrhoids.
Eating beets or red berries, or drinking beet or tomato juice, also turns poop red. Once these foods have passed through the digestive tract, poop should become brown again.
Consuming many orange-colored foods, which are rich in a pigment called beta-carotene, causes orange stool.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are among the many foods that contain this pigment.
However, blocked bile ducts or certain medications including some antacids and the antibiotic rifampin can cause orange poop.
If stool appears yellow or is greasy-looking, it suggests the poop contains too much fat. This may be the result of absorption issues, or difficulty producing enzymes or bile.
Most people will experience variations in stool color at some stage. Usually, this is down to diet or some other minor cause. However, anyone who experiences changes in poop color that last for 2 or more weeks or has red or black stool should see their doctor.
How long should a poop take?
At most, it should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes to pass stool.
People that take longer than this may have constipation, hemorrhoids, or another condition.
The following situations may suggest a digestive issue:
- pooping too often (more than three times daily)
- not pooping often enough (less than three times a week)
- excessive straining when pooping.
- poop that is colored red, black, green, yellow, or white
- greasy, fatty stools
- pain when pooping
- blood in the stool
- bleeding while passing stool
- watery poop (diarrhea)
- very hard, dry poop that is difficult to pass
People experiencing any of these types of poop should see a doctor.
See a doctor if changes to poop persist for 2 or more weeks.
Seek immediate medical treatment if the stool is bright red, black, or resembles coffee grounds. This suggests blood loss, which could become a medical emergency if left untreated.
Normal poop tends to be brown, soft to firm in texture, and easy to pass. If someone experiences changes in poop, they should monitor the changes and consult a doctor if the issue does not resolve within 2 weeks.
To encourage a normal bowel function, a person should eat a fiber-rich diet, take regular exercise, try to reduce stress, and drink lots of water to stay hydrated.