The Bristol Stool Scale was created in 1992 and is widely used today to chart and discuss bowel movements. Type 1 is the most constipated and 2 is mildly constipated. Type 3 and 4 are normal. Type 5 through 7 are on the diarrhea end of the scale with 7 being the most severe.

I recommend that everyone use the Bristol Scale whether they are talking with their doctor, nutritionist or other health professional, or noting their own bowel movements. Believe me, I’m not saying you should record your bowel movements for the rest of your life but if you are in the middle of SIBO, IBS or another gastrointestinal issue, it can be helpful to chart your bowel movements for a period of time. It can help you see the progress you’ve made or note when your bowel movements are negatively affected by certain food, medications, supplements, stress or sleep. If you’re keeping a food/mood/bowel movement journal, it is much more helpful to look back and see a specific entry such as “Bristol 5 at 8 am and Bristol 7 with left side cramping at 9:30 am, no more BMs for the rest of the day” than to see “diarrhea”. Similarly, when people say “constipation” they mean a wide variety of things. So why not try using the Bristol scale as a reference and see if it helps you understand your symptoms or have more direct communication with your health care professional. 

There should definitely be some happy faces in your journal when you’ve had a type 3 or 4! Start charting and hang in there!