Ayurveda and the Perfect Poop

Ayurveda and the Perfect Poop

In This Article

What is a “Normal” Bowel Movement?

Some say a classic sign of old age is when we start talking about our BMs. I see this as a sign of developing more wisdom with age.

A detailed analysis of one’s bowel movement was a diagnostic technique used for thousands of years to determine one’s health status!

A few years ago, a patient shared with me that her doctor told her that moving her bowels once every five days (as she was) was normal. In my practice, I’ve found that many people are unclear as to what a “normal” bowel movement is, but the overwhelming majority just don’t pay attention.

Almost every system of medicine, even Western medicine, has a method of evaluating health based on inspection of one’s bowel movements. According to Ayurveda, the color, shape, size, frequency, odor, and consistency have much to tell about what’s working or not working upstream in the digestive and detoxification systems.

You can learn a lot about the health of your body by taking a quick peek at your poo before you flush. Join me as I explain what to look for and what it might mean.

How Food Becomes Waste

  1. Foods are broken down in the mouth by chewing and enzymes that are sub-lingual (under your tongue).
  2. Foods are further broken down in the stomach by digestive acids.
  3. Bile from the liver/gallbladder and digestive enzymes from the pancreas neutralize stomach acids and further break down foods.
  4. Bile flow is critical, as it regulates color, consistency, and regularity of stool.
  5. Mucus is released from the small intestine to make a bolus of food (stool) and to protect the lining from harsh acids and enzymes. This mucus has to be produced in the right amount—not too much, not too little. Most nutrients are extracted at this stage.
  6. Once the food bolus moves into the large intestine, water is pulled off in an attempt to make the perfect stool.

The Perfect Stool

Here are some requirements for a perfect stool:

  • One complete elimination in the morning, preferably within first hour of waking.
  • Brown color
  • Banana shape
  • Does not stick to toilet
  • Easy to wipe / no mess
  • Minimal odor
  • Almost always the same regardless of foods eaten

Body Type Variations

Based on your constitution, otherwise known as your dosha or Ayurvedic body type, the stool may vary. Here are some guidelines to look for by dosha.

Not sure of your type? >>> Take our Body Type Quiz now


Vata body types are governed by air, which generally means they have a more light and dry constitution. They are nervous-system predominant, which means they are feelers, highly aware, and experience effects of stress on the intestinal tract more than other types might. We now know that stress is processed through the intestines. This makes vata types more prone to dry, sluggish bowels.

Normal Vata Stools

  • Once a day within the first 2-3 hours of waking
  • Firm, but regular
  • Dark brown
  • Complete elimination
  • No gas
  • Minimal odor

Imbalanced Vata Stools

  • More dry or hard
  • Scant, thin, pellets
  • Less frequent: anything less than once a day
  • Not a complete elimination
  • Both frequency and consistency changes a lot
  • Darker in color (longer transit time allows the stool to absorb more bile, which darkens it)
  • Astringent, foul odor due to longer transit time
  • More gas or flatulence

Support for Vata Elimination

  1. Stay hydrated. Vata types are dry; the digestive system needs water to function well.
  2. Be relaxed and take time to eat meals. Vata types can have a hard time slowing down.
  3. Have regular meals on a regular schedule.
Herbal Support
  1. Take triphala before bed. Triphala is good for all three (vata, pitta, kapha) aspects of digestion. For vatas, it will tone and support healthy intestinal contractions.
  2. Vatas can add slippery elm and licorice to triphala to improve results. My formula Elim 1 is a great support for vata elimination. It combines the bowel-toning herbs traditionally found in triphala with slippery elm bark, licorice root, and a small amount of psyllium.
  3. Drink slippery elm tea to lubricate the intestinal wall.


Pitta types are governed by fire, which means they have a constitution that is hot, dry, and potentially irritated. They generally have a strong digestive system, but can easily become overheated or inflamed. Pitta types generally take on a lot of stress, and this stress is processed through the intestines as well.

Normal Pitta Stools

  • Firm, but breaks up when flushed
  • Brown-yellow color
  • Two complete bowel movements a day. One within the first hour of waking and the second after lunch
  • Mild odor

Imbalanced Pitta Stools

  • Loose or diarrhea
  • More frequent. More than two a day means too much pitta (stomach acid, liver heat, or bile)
  • Yellow-brown color due to a fast transit time and increased bile flow, which is yellow-green, from the liver
  • Strong, unpleasant odor
  • Bloating or belching
  • Hot or burning stool when eliminating

Support for Pitta Elimination

  1. Avoid spicy food.
  2. Don’t eat fast. Slow down while eating.
  3. Eat more fiber. It escorts bile through the gut into the toilet for efficient detox.
  4. Soluble fiber, like oats and flax seeds, protect the gut from inflammation.
  5. Insoluble fiber, like greens, creates bulk and will firm up a looser pitta stool.
Herbal Support
  1. Take amalaki after meals. Amalaki cools, soothes, and protects the gut from excess pitta which can cause aggravation and looser stool.
  2. Take Cool Digest before meals to cool and balance the mucosa of the stomach wall and boost bile flow.


Kapha types are governed by earth and water and generally hold on to more water, making for a calm, heavier-set constitution with a slower metabolism. Stress is still processed through the intestines, but since kapha types handle stress well, their bowel movements are usually not affected.

Normal Kapha Stools

  • Regular and complete
  • Once a day within the first hour or two of waking
  • Large and well-formed
  • Less odor or even a sweet smell
  • Brown color

Imbalanced Kapha Stools

  • Mucus in stool (see more details under “Mucus in Stool” below)
  • Sticky stool due to excess kapha and incomplete intestinal absorption. Sticks to toilet bowl or hard to wipe clean
  • Pale brown or clay-colored due to liver congestion

Support for Kapha Elimination

  1. Get more exercise. Kapha types need regular exercise to keep digestion healthy and bowels moving.
  2. Three good healthy meals a day—no snacking. While snacking is taboo for everyone, it will bog down kapha digestion especially quickly.
Herbal Support
  1. Take triphala before bed. Triphala is good for all three (vata, pitta, kapha) aspects of digestion, but especially good for kapha, as it will pull mucus off the gut wall.


The most common digestive imbalances seen in the stool can be supported by bringing vata, pitta, or kapha into balance. However, some stool imbalances are more complicated and require a separate explanation.

Mucus in Stool

Mucus in the stool is caused by an imbalance of the intestinal wall. This could be a medical condition, so if it persists, see your doctor. If you see mucus in the stool—which typically looks like a white or clear stringy substance that wraps around the stool—the intestinal villi are likely flattened or bogged down by mucus. This can be caused by:

  • Excess spicy foods
  • Excess coffee or congestive highly processed + comfort foods
  • Excessive stress, which is processed through the gut wall
  • Weak upper digestion that lets undigested foods pass, which go on to become intestinal irritants
Support for Mucus in Stool
  1. Amalaki: Protects intestinal villi and supports normal function.
  2. Slippery elm, marshmallow root, and licorice tea: coats intestinal lining.
  3. If this persists, see your doctor.

Stool Color Meanings

Green or Yellow Stool

Stool can become green due to excess green veggies, which is normal. If you can track an occasional green stool back to eating more green vegetables than usual, not to worry.

However, if you can’t, the stool can also become greenish or yellow due to foods passing too quickly through the large intestine. Bile turns brown as it transits the intestines. If stool is moving too fast or bile is secreted in excess by the liver and gallbladder, it will not have time to turn brown, resulting in green stool.

Support for Green or Yellow Stool
  1. Eat more soluble fiber, like oats and flax seeds.
  2. Slippery elm, marshmallow root, and licorice tea: coats intestinal lining, which can cause faster transit time. It also provides soluble fiber, which does the same.
  3. Learn more about soluble and insoluble fiber here.
  4. If this persists, see your doctor.
See also Eat the Right Fiber

Black Stool

Black stool is most commonly due to old blood from an irritation in the stomach or upper part of the small intestine. This is a medical condition—see your doctor.

Greasy or Shiny Stool

When a stool is greasy or shiny, this is usually due to lack of bile flow from the liver or gallbladder. Bile is needed to emulsify fats and if the fats are not broken down, then the stool may carry undigested fat and become shiny or greasy.

Support for a Greasy Stool
  1. This can be a medical condition and if this persists, see your doctor.
  2. Increase bile flow with more leafy greens, beets, cinnamon, and fenugreek.
  3. To support healthy bile flow, check out my herbal formulas Turmeric PlusBeet Cleanse, and Liver Repair.

See also For a Sluggish Gallbladder, Try These 4 Ayurvedic Herbs and Foods

Clay-Colored Stools

Clay-colored stools are also caused by a lack of bile passing through the gut. Remember, bile is responsible for color of the stool. No color means no bile.

Support for Clay Colored Stool
  1. This can be a medical condition and if this persists, see your doctor.
  2. Increase bile flow with more leafy greens, beets, cinnamon, and fenugreek.
  3. To support healthy bile flow, check out my herbal formulas Turmeric PlusBeet Cleanse, and Liver Repair.

Red or Bloody Stool

Most commonly, fresh blood in the stool is caused by hemorrhoids. It could be a medical condition—if it persists, see your doctor.

Undigested Food in the Stool

The most common reason for undigested food to be passed through the entire intestinal tract into the stool starts in the stomach. The stomach is responsible for the initial breakdown of food. If stomach acid production is weak, hard-to-digest foods will not be broken down.

Support for Undigested Food in the Stool: Increase Stomach Acid
  1. Drink 8-12 ounces of water 15 or 20 minutes before each meal.
  2. Take ginger before each meal.
  3. Drink ginger tea with meals.
  4. Warm Digest is a formula consisting of ginger, long pepper, and black pepper (the classic Ayurvedic trikatu formula to help boost stomach digestive agni or fire)
  5. If this persists, a further evaluation of the digestive process is needed. See your doctor.

Perfect Poop Conclusion

In my opinion, a thorough evaluation of the digestive and eliminative system is a critical part of preventative health. The problem is that our bowel movements are an uncomfortable topic for discussion. So when I ask my patients about their bowel movements, I almost always hear, “They are fine.” To me, the word FINE (per the movie, Italian Job) stands for: Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.

So when I hear “fine” as the answer, it is not enough. I need the gory details!

Take some time each day for a quick inspection of your bowel function. Having awareness of what is normal will allow you to quickly pick up on imbalances in the stool before they become a problem. It is another way you can take responsibility for your health.

A “Perfect Poop Chart” for Daily Reference

Hang this mini poster in your bathroom or office for daily reference, such as on the wall or in your medicine cabinet. It lists requirements for a perfect stool, signs of general imbalance, and descriptions of normal and imbalanced stools for each body type.

You don’t need to memorize the 46 different types of stools, as the Perfect Poop Chart lists what is considered normal and what is a sign of an imbalance.

Purchase your laminated chart here!

Thank you for visiting LifeSpa.com, where we publish cutting-edge health information combining Ayurvedic wisdom and modern science. If you are enjoying our free content, please visit our Ayurvedic Shop on your way out and share your favorite articles and videos with your friends and family.

Dr. John

1 thought on “Ayurveda and the Perfect Poop”

  1. As always, all information covered so precisely. Mine is a complicated case and seems like a mix between vata and kapha. I want to fix it but don’t understand where to start in the GI tract and how many herbs to take as I have – low acid, low motility, constipation, heaviness after wheat, dairy and fat and a few more!


Leave a Comment