Everyone poops, but it’s still something a lot of us have an awfully hard time talking about. (Unless you’re my 6-year-old and 3-year-old, who cannot talk about poop enough, it turns out.)
But it’s unfortunate that poop talk tends to make adults squeamish, because our stool can offer some powerful clues about what’s going on inside our guts — and even more broadly within our bodies. And doctors really do wish people would lean into it.
“When I ask patients to describe their stool, even when they’re at the GI doctor, you can almost immediately sense their discomfort,” Christopher Henry, a gastroenterologist at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, told HuffPost.
Enter the Bristol Stool Chart (sometimes called the Bristol Stool Form Scale or the Meyers Scale), a diagnostic tool that health professionals can use with their patients to help determine what’s normal (and what’s not) in terms of size, texture and color of poop.
In general, ideal poop is Type 3 or Type 4. Type 1 or Type 2, on the other hand, can indicate a person is struggling with constipation. And Types 5, 6 or 7 can suggest diarrhea — though not always.
“Sometimes I’ll have patients with very severe constipation, and they’ll have periodic diarrhea,” Henry said.
That particular example shows why the stool chart really shouldn’t be used by laypeople to self-diagnose. Instead, people should see it as a jumping-off point for health-related conversations — and it certainly can help make those discussions