Bristol Stool scale: Stool types and what they mean – Medical News Today

The Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS), also known as the Bristol stool scale or Bristol stool chart, is a medical tool that can help classify stools into seven groups. Characterizing the stool based on its consistency can help identify if it is a healthy bowel movement.
The bowel is the part of the digestive system that allows people to absorb nutrients from food and expel the waste that the body cannot use. If feces pass too quickly or too slowly, it may indicate a problem with the bowels.
This article explains the BSFS and suggests tips to improve bowel health and function.
In 1997, Dr. Kenneth Heaton developed the BSFS, a diagnostic tool to help classify stools into seven categories. Doctors can use the tool as a practical guide in assessing how long a stool has spent in the bowels.
The scale uses stool consistency to describe and categorize feces. Dr. Heaton devised the BSFS as a quick, inexpensive, and reliable way to classify stools visually without the need for laboratory testing.
Medical professionals can use the BSFS to help assess the condition of the bowel and measure the effectiveness of certain treatments. For example, doctors may use the BSFS to help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome.
The BSFS is a scale that classifies stools, ranging from the hardest to the softest. Experts consider types 1 and 2 to be uncharacteristically hard and indicative of constipation, while types 6 and 7 are unusually loose and may indicate diarrhea. Medical professionals generally consider types 3, 4, and 5 to be the most typical.
Type 1 has the appearance of separate hard lumps, while type 2 is sausage-shaped but lumpy. Both types could indicate constipation, as these stools are hard, dry, and difficult to pass. They may also be darker in color. This occurs when food passes too slowly through the digestive system and the colon absorbs too much water.
To help treat constipation, people can consume more fiber, drink more water, perform regular physical activity, and try bowel training.
Individuals may also consider trying over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives for a short time. In more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe medications to soften the stool and encourage the colon to pass feces.
Learn more about natural remedies to relieve constipation.
Type 3 has a shape similar to a sausage but with cracks on the surface, while type 4 has a comparable appearance to type 3 but with a smooth and soft surface. Experts generally consider these types to be the most healthy and typical stool forms.
Type 5 stools are soft blobs with clear-cut edges that a person can pass easily. Some may also consider this type to be typical in those without bowel issues, while others may suggest it is too loose and may imply diarrhea.
Type 6 is a mushy stool that appears to consist of fluffy pieces with ragged edges, while type 7 is entirely liquid with no solid pieces. These types of stools may suggest a person is experiencing diarrhea, as the stools are loose. They may also be lighter in color. This is due to passing the stool through the digestive system too quickly and the bowel is unable to absorb water.
To help treat diarrhea, individuals need to drink plenty of fluids to maintain hydration and consider taking OTC antidiarrheal medication. For chronic or persistent cases of diarrhea, people can speak with a doctor, who can identify the cause and prescribe appropriate medications.
Learn more about treating diarrhea at home.
The bowel consists of the small and large intestines, which both play an important role in keeping people healthy. They allow the body to absorb fluid and nutrients from food and process and expel the waste.
Signs of a healthy bowel can include:
In addition to having a healthy diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting regular exercise, people can try other strategies to improve their bowel health and function. These may include:
If a person is persistently passing stools at either end of the BSFS or switching from one end of the scale to the other, it is advisable that they consult with a doctor.
A healthcare professional can help identify the potential cause of the abnormal bowel movements and recommend suitable treatments to allow an individual to pass regular and healthy stools.
The BSFS is a diagnostic tool that people can use to classify their stools based on their appearance. The scale ranges from type 1 (hard) to type 7 (loose) and may identify problems with bowel movements through the shape and consistency of the stool.
Last medically reviewed on August 20, 2021
9 sourcescollapsed