What is Feces?

Feces or human excrement is the waste material remaining after the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients which is passed out through the anus. It also contains water, some breakdown products of normal metabolic activity, indigestible material and residual nutrients that have not been absorbed. Feces or fecal matter is also referred to as stool or poo.

Types of Stool

Understanding the shape and consistency of stools is important to identify any changes which may be indicative of gastrointestinal disorders, nutritional disturbances and other systemic diseases which may affect bowel movements.

The Bristol Stool Chart is a convenient method to assess the consistency of stool and identifying normal or healthy stool forms from those that may be indicative of an underlying disorder. This scale identifies seven types of stool forms. Refer to the picture below for a graphical representation of the types of stool.

Type 1

  • Separate hard lumps, like nuts.
  • Hard to pass.

Type 2

  • Sausage shape but lumpy.

Type 3

  • Like a sausage but with cracks on the surface.

Type 4

  • Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.

Type 5

  • Soft blobs with clear cut edges.
  • Passed easily.

Type 6

  • Fluffy pieces with ragged edges.
  • A mushy stool.

Type 7

  • Watery with no solid pieces.
  • Entirely liquid.

Source : Wikimedia Commons

Bristol Stool Chart developed at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Hard Bowel Movements

Hard stool may be related to constipation. The stool is very firm to hard, passes out with difficulty (discomfort, pain, straining) and is not passed out frequently. The fecal matter becomes hard due to a low water content and may have been in transit through the bowels for too long. It is often linked to low fluid consumption and low fiber intake and associated with types 1 and 2.
Other gastrointestinal, nutritional and systemic disorders may cause hard bowel movements and constipation.

Normal Bowel Movements

A normal bowel movement is the evacuation of feces anywhere between once daily to 3 times a week. As long as the stool consistency and form is normal (type 3 and 4), it may not be a problem if a person does not pass stool on a daily basis. The color varies from tan to brown to dark brown,

Loose Bowel Movements

Loose stool may be related to diarrhea. The stool is very soft to watery, passes out easily and more frequently than normal. Blood and mucus may sometimes be found in the stool. The fecal matter becomes hard due to poor absorption of water from the bowels, malabsorption syndromes, rapid movement through the gut, the presence of pathogenic bacteria (“bad bacteria”) or low populations of normal intestinal flora(“good bacteria”).
Other gastrointestinal, nutritional and systemic disorders may cause loose bowel movements and diarrhea.

Related Articles

Constipation and Hard Stool

  1. What is Constipation?
  2. What Causes Constipation?
  3. Types of Constipation
  4. Chronic Constipation
  5. Foods that Cause Constipation

Diarrhea and Loose Stool

  1. Definition of Diarrhea
  2. Causes of Acute Diarrhea
  3. Causes of Chronic Diarrhea
  4. HIV Diarrhea
  5. Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea
  6. Diarrhea Induced by Drugs, Remedies or Other Medication
  7. Foods Causing Diarrhea

Different Colors of Stools and Diarrhea

  1. Black Bowel Movement
  2. Green Bowel Movement
  3. Orange Bowel Movement
  4. Pale, Clay, Gray or White Bowel Movement
  5. Yellow Bowel Movement

Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on July 4, 2010