Despite the Creepy Name, ‘Ghost Poops’ Are a Surprisingly Good Sign for Gut Health—Here’s Why

Stocksy / Alexey Kuzma
If you ask me, having full, satisfying BMs on the regular is one of life’s (and your gut’s) greatest gifts. And anyone who has ever been to a gastroenterologist knows that what's going on in your toilet can tell you a lot—the color, size, shape, and texture of your BMs are all clues about your gut health. But have you ever gone number two but have zero proof to show it? If so, you've had a close encounter with a "ghost poop."

For those unfamiliar with the spooky-sounding term, a ghost poop describes when your stool sinks in depths of your toilet and shows nary a trace in sight, your TP shows up clear after one-wipe, or both. But are ghost poops the gold (err… brown?) standard for digestion? And if so, can you hack your way to having them more regularly?

Experts In This Article

What a ghost poop says about your health

By and large, ghost poops typically indicate that your gut and digestion are faring well. “Ideally, a poop that sinks means you don't have trapped gas or too much undigested fat in your poop, which in my opinion is a good thing,” says Sarah Greenfield, RD, a functional medicine dietitian and gut health expert. Moreover, a one-wipe poop (or those requiring only a few wipes with minimal messiness) typically denotes that you’ve passed a type 3 or 4 bowel movement on the Bristol Stool Chart: fully formed and with a soft texture, with perhaps a few cracks on the surface.

These ideal stool textures indicate that your food has been digested well and that “you have good bacterial diversity with adequate fiber, polyphenols, prebiotics, and that your hydration status is on point,” Greenfield explains. “It could also indicate that you have a well-regulated nervous system, but that doesn't always have to be the case.” (Stress and nervousness can make you more likely to experience diarrhea—if not trigger full-blown irritable bowel syndrome—which will require a more concerted cleanup effort.)

Should you aim to have more ghost poops?

“A good goal is to have a bowel movement that doesn't require a big cleanup,” says Greenfield. Not seeing your poop in the toilet isn’t as important of a goal, she continues, though she recognizes the excitement that can come with the experience. Observing the visual proof (including the shape, texture, color and overall quality) of your stool is crucial to know if things are A-okay or more off than usual.

In addition, not all schools of thought champion stools that sink. “In Ayurveda, they say that your poop should float, so in this practice a ghost poop would not be ideal,” the dietitian shares. (Poop that floats can be perfectly normal, yet sometimes it may signal something’s not ideal in your diet and/or for your greater health.)

The *bottom* line

Though a ghost poop can potentially signal that your gut is diverse and balanced, your digestive system is running smoothly, and that your dietary habits are in a good place, not having ghost poops certainly doesn’t mean that you haven’t cleared this checklist, either. All things considered, instead of striving for ghost poops specifically, maintaining regularity and supporting your personal version of healthy, normal bowel movements are key.

Perhaps that could look like pooping every morning, or even just a few times a week. (Per a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, nearly 96 percent of a representative sample of 44,775 adults in the United States passed three to 21 BMs weekly: a pretty wide but normal gap that one gastroenterologist has previously called the “Goldilocks zone for pooing.”)

The quality of your poops hold a lot of (proverbial) weight in terms of your digestive health, and there are countless ways to work on improving it if you need a lifeline. Greenfield’s top daily dietary tips include eating the rainbow daily (aka eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors and types), aiming for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber from diverse sources, and drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water daily. In addition, she suggests staying active each and every day, which can help keep your bowels moving regularly. Your poops—spooky and regular—will thank you for it.

—reviewed by Jennifer Logan, MD, MPH

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