Stools explained

Published on November 7, 2019

What should my stools be like?

Most people don’t give their stools much thought. So, it’s just as well doctors at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in England did. They took a long hard look at stools and developed a commonly used guide to understanding and explaining stools.

For anyone interested in knowing more about their stool, their findings will help you figure out whether your stools are healthy, normal and the way they should be, or could be in better shape.

Are all stools the same?

Stools come in different shapes and sizes, with different textures and colours, even odours. Get to know your stools better and you’ll know more about constipation.

  • Colour and consistency. Normal poo should be brown and firm.
  • Texture. When your poo is one piece, or made up of a few pieces, your bowel is doing the right thing. Any poo that’s long or shaped like a sausage is caused by the shape of your intestines.
  • Different colours. Stools may be a range of colours and this can vary for a number of reasons. For more information click HERE. (link to the section below.)
  • Strong-smelling odour. Really smells? It’s the bacteria in poo which emits those gases that can really get on your nose.
  • Painless bowel movement. A healthy bowel movement should be painless and require minimal strain.
  • Poo consistency. What defines healthy poo is different for everyone. Yet it’s all about staying consistent, and if your poo suddenly start changing shape, colour or odour, there could be an issue.

 Why are stools so different?

To answer that question, doctors at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, England, examined the bowel movements of nearly 2,000 people to develop the Bristol stool chart, which characterises the different types of poop into 7 varieties.

  • Types 1 and 2 indicate constipation.
  • Types 3 and 4 are considered healthy.
  • Types 5 to 7 suggest diarrhoea and urgency.


1. Nordqvist C. Constipation: Causes, symptoms, and treatments [Internet]. Medical News Today. 2019 [cited 19 July 2019]. Available from:

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