Here's What Your Poop Is Trying To Tell You

You know what they say: everybody poops. (Or, at least, everybody needs to eliminate waste products from their bodies at some point.) At the same time, though, pooping is one of the most private things you can possibly do. So since most of us aren't running around chatting openly about our bowel functions, it's tough to know what's "normal" in the broader sense. Luckily, there's a lot of variety when it comes to normal, healthy pooping habits — and no one's perfect all the time.

First off, if you've ever Googled any question about your number two (oh, come on, we've all been there) you've probably come across the Bristol Stool Scale, which lists seven different types of poo. The first two may indicate constipation, while the last three suggest there's some intestinal inflammation resulting in diarrhea. That means that, ideally, we should all be somewhere between the third and fourth types most of the time.

This handy chart was developed in the early 1990s through research conducted by doctors based at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the U.K. For instance, using an early version of the scale for a 1992 prospective study published in Gut, they found that women tended to report stools that reflected constipation more frequently than men.

Then, in a 1997 paper published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, the authors reformulated the chart into the version we all know and love and proposed using it as an actual clinical tool. This one uses everyday language (e.g. "like a sausage or snake") to really drive the points home.

Although we know that it's not always surefire way to diagnose a GI issue (e.g. having a Type 2 poop doesn't always mean you're suffering from constipation), the chart remains pretty much omnipresent. It's easy to read and, generally, a good way to keep track of what's going on down under. However, it's important to note that everyone has slightly different plumbing. So what's normal for your friends may not be normal for you. The most important thing to keep track of, then, is when things change.

Have you always been a once-a-day kind of person but now you're on day three and still waiting? Or do you notice the consistency of your poop changes when you're especially stressed? Or do things just feel off for no obvious reason? All of those are good things to bring up with your doctor. And she may send you to a gastroenterologist if necessary.

But, before all of that, you've gotta know what to look for. Read on for a look at the Bristol scale — and what it means for your health.