What does your poo say about you?

What does your poo say about you: Woman on toilet. (Getty Images)
How often do you check your poo? (Getty Images)

Poo isn't something we tend to discuss or pay much attention to. But, it's a good reflection of our overall health and wellbeing and something we need to stop being so prudish about.

Almost half (45%) of UK adults can't identify a 'healthy' faeces sample and nearly one in four (23%) have never checked their poo, according to the June Bupa Wellbeing Index.

But instead of opting to ignore that stool that looked a little different to usual, you should feel confident getting the advice or help you need, without feeling shame or embarrassment.

Bowel cancer sufferer Dame Deborah James spent her last years encouraging others to check their poo and it's a mission that twins Lisa and Alana Macfarlane have been on ever since they launched the gut stuff in 2017.

Read more: What is bowel cancer? Signs and and symptoms to be aware of

Man pooing on toilet. (Getty Images)
'Pooing is one of the only things that we all do, apart from eating, sleeping and dying, but yet, we rarely talk to each other about it,' says Alana Macfarlane. (Getty Images)

"The main thing we've learned is that people just don't check it like wee," says Lisa, who calls "the poo taboo" the "final frontier of our generation".

"We talk about poo when it comes to babies and it's the same with dogs and puppies. We know it's an indication of our health, so why do we not mirror that in ourselves?" she says.

Alana echoes this confusion. "Pooing is one of the only things that we all do, apart from eating, sleeping and dying, but we rarely talk to each other about it," she says. "I think it's fascinating as to why people don't talk about it more, and the work that we're doing, will hopefully change that."

Why is checking your poo important?

The gut stuff stool chart. (Getty Images)
What number are you today? (the gut stuff)

While Lisa says people can tend to want to know exactly what the appearance of their poo means, she stresses one person's normal isn't always the same as the next.

But that's why she recommends tracking it over a period of time and getting to know your poo.

"People go to their GP with a digestive issue, and then the GP says, 'Okay, well, when was the last time you pooed and what was it like' and you go 'err I can't really remember'," says Lisa, adding that struggling to explain the issue can sometimes be more of a barrier to access than embarrassment.

"I think that having the vocabulary to be able to explain what it is will help a lot of people," she says.

So, whether your symptoms are down to being dehydrated or not eating enough fibre, being stressed, or something more serious, it's always worth speaking to someone about it if you're worried. "At worst, it can be something more serious and at best, it could help people to be a bit more comfortable," she urges.

Lisa and Alana themselves check their poo with the aid of the gut stuff's 'gut diary' (which allows you to circle what your stool looks like among other things), suggesting "you can make it as habitual as brushing your teeth".

So, to help you understand and talk about your stools more, here's what your poo might say about you:

What your poo says about you

Type 1: Separate hard lumps, like nuts, (hard to pass)

What does your boo say about you Bristol stool chart 1. (Getty Images)
Poo type 1 from the Bristol stool chart. (Getty Images)

This is a constipated stool, which is usually caused by lack of fluid and fibre intake, according to Sophie Medlin, colorectal dietitian at City Dietitians. That said, constipation can also be caused by mobility problems, irritable bowel syndrome and stress as well as certain medications like pain killers.

"If you’re eating plenty of fibre and drinking at least two litres of water a day and you’re still getting type 1 stools on a regular basis, it’s time to see a doctor or dietitian," advises Medlin.

"Always remember to use a stool to rest your feet on when you’re using the toilet when you have constipation, this can make things a lot easier."

Type 2: Sausage-shaped, but lumpy

What does your boo say about you Bristol stool chart 2. (Getty Images)
Poo type 2 from the Bristol stool chart. (Getty Images)

Similarly, this is usually a sign that you're a bit dehydrated or haven't had enough fibre in your diet.

"Type 2 and type 1 stools are both indicative of constipation. Types 1 and 2 stools can cause problems like piles, where blood vessels get enlarged around the anus and rectum," says Medlin.

"Sometimes, if you don’t go for a poo when you need to because you are somewhere that you don’t feel comfortable to poo, it can get too hard and cause problems."

She explains that there are lots of dietary measures you can take to soften the stool, like eating kiwis and things like chia pudding.

Type 3: Sausage-shaped, but with cracks on surface

What does your boo say about you Bristol stool chart 3. (Getty Images)
Poo type 3 from the Bristol stool chart. (Getty Images)

Apparently, "This poo is nearly optimal."

"It is probably just a little dry but it’s nothing to worry about unless it is uncomfortable to pass," Medlin adds. "Sometimes stools might be firmer like this when we have been out of routine so had less to drink or if we’re more stressed than normal."

Type 4: Sausage or snake-like, smooth and soft

What does your poo say about you Bristol stool chart type 4. (Getty Images)
Poo type 4 from the Bristol stool chart. (Getty Images)

It seems sausage or snake-like is good news. "This is the ideal poo," says Medlin.

This is because it holds tougher in the toilet bowl and shouldn't be uncomfortable to pass.

"If you’re passing type 4 stools most days, that is a good sign," she adds.

Type 5: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges

What does your poo say about you Bristol stool chart type 5. (Getty Images)
Poo type 5 from the Bristol stool chart. (Getty Images)

Medlin says this type of stool is also fine.

"Sometimes when the poo doesn’t hold together like type 4, it can mean you could do with some more soluble fibre to improve the consistency but if it isn’t causing you any problems and it holds tougher in the toilet, it’s nothing to worry about," she explains.

Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, mushy

What does your poo say about you Bristol stool chart type 6. (Getty Images)
Poo type 6 from the Bristol stool chart. (Getty Images)

It seems type 6 could be caused by a whole host of reasons.

"This sort of stool is one that can happen if your bowel has been irritated by something such as alcohol or a very rich meal. Sometimes looser stools can be caused by stress and anxiety as well as medical problems like inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome," says Medlin.

"If your stool is always loose like this, it’s a good idea to chat to your GP or a dietitian who can investigate for you and find the right management."

Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces (entirely liquid)

What does your poo say about you Bristol stool chart type 7. (Getty Images)
Poo type 7 from the Bristol stool chart. (Getty Images)

Similarly to type 6, the root cause of type 7 can vary.

"Diarrhoea is something that can affect us all sometimes and it might be related to stress or anxiety or it might be that you have eaten something that doesn’t agree with you. Alternatively it could be food poisoning or gastroenteritis," explains Medlin.

"If the diarrhoea lasts for more than three days or the poo is ever accompanied by blood or mucous, always see your GP."

So, while it is important to remember that everyone is different, and our stool's can change day-to-day, hopefully this will help you to embrace your poo a little more, rather than avoid or fear it.

Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about any of these symptoms.

Watch: Deborah James urges people to 'enjoy life, check your poo' final podcast