5 min read



     There is no such thing as TMI (too much information) in Chinese Medicine. Talking poop is just a normal, everyday thing for us acupuncturists and herbalists when it comes to figuring out what is going on internally.  The frequency, consistency, color, shape, and smell of your poops all give important information on the balance of your digestive system.  Here is the quick Traditional Chinese Medicine scoop on your poop.


  • Everybody has to poop for good health.  In Chinese Medicine, a person should have a bowel movement 1-2 times a day. Less than that would be considered constipation, more than three times is considered too frequent. 
  • Not enough poops (less than once per day) - Peristalsis is theinvoluntary constriction and relaxation of the muscles of the intestine pushing the poops through the canal. Liver Qi stagnation as well as Qi deficiency can both cause a slow down.  Because the Liver governs the free and smooth flow of Qi throughout the whole body, if the Liver gets stagnated, the Intestines can become blocked as well.  
  • Too many poops (3 or more per day) - this could be caused by Spleen Qi sinking.  Because it is the Spleen that holds things in place and keeps us upright - without Spleen Qi, we would not be able to stand up against gravity and would be a puddle of skin, bones, and flesh on the ground.  Spleen Qi sinking is a condition where the Spleen energy is so low that it sinks and is not able to hold things in place.  It takes energy to move your bowels and get the poops out, but it also takes energy to keep the poops from running out too quickly while nutrients are still being absorbed.  

Loose, Watery Poops

  • A healthy poop is firm but not too firm, soft but not too soft.
  • Loose to watery stools - this signals Spleen and/or Kidney deficiency.  In Chinese medicine theory, the Spleen controls the transportation and transformation of food in terms of digestion, while the Kidney yang warms the Spleen to ensure its function. Yang deficiency in the Spleen or Kidney would cause dysfunction of transportation and transformation, thus leading to diarrhea. 
  • For most younger people, Spleen deficiency is the most common culprit for having loose stools.
  • Those who are elderly, or who have had a chronic illness or long, debilitating periods of stress, chronic diarrhea or loose stools can be a sign of Kidney Qi deficiency.  Kidney deficient diarrhea can often happen in the early morning.
  • Loose stools with a fishy odor - usually a sign of too muchcold in the Intestines. 

Note: Spleen Deficiency can be associated with malabsorption, insufficient production of digestive enzymes, decreased production of bile, an imbalance of stomach acid and gut flora.  Spleen Qi Deficiency is often associated with a poor diet that may include fried foods, sweets, refined foods, and an over consumption of raw foods and iced drinks. Over-thinking and worrying can also damage the Spleen function.


Dry, Hard Poops

  • Constipated poops that are shaped like pellets - This type of constipation is due to Liver Qi stagnation with Heat. The excess Liver heat dries up bodily fluids, making the stools dry and difficult to pass.  In addition, Liver Qi stagnation can disrupt peristalsis - which is the movement that pushes the stools through the intestines.  
  • Constipated, dry, and hard-to-pass poops - Dry poops can be caused by deficiency  or excess.  Deficiency constipation is due to dryness and a lack of Blood and bodily fluids.  Both Blood deficiency and yin deficiency can cause dryness.  In this case, the body will attempt to compensate by drawing more fluid from the food in the Intestines, causing constipation. Deficiency constipation can be more difficult to treat because it requires replenishing the Blood and yin fluids of the body, which takes time.  In the case of excess - Heat from Liver Qi stagnation, or excess Stomach, Gall Bladder or Large Intestine Heat can cause the fluids to dry up.

Both Hard and Loose

  • Loose stools alternating with hard stools - a mix of both Spleen Qi deficiency and Liver Qi stagnation - or an imbalance Liver overacting on the Spleen. In this scenario, you may also experience abdominal pain and diarrhea following emotional disturbances. The abdominal discomfort will slightly diminish after defecation. Accompanying symptoms include fullness in the chest and rib sides, belching, loss of appetite, a bitter taste in the mouth, acid regurgitation, a sallow complexion and fatigue.
  • Initial discharge of a hard stool and then discharge of a loose stool - this can be seen when there is an accumulation of dampness caused by Spleen Deficiency.


Note: Not enough frequency, dry and hard poops and alternating loose and hard stools can increase the risk of other health problems. These can also be associated with abdominal pain, as well as digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and acid reflux.  Emotional factors that influence the Liver and Spleen, such as anger, frustration, repressed emotions, and overthinking can be common. 



  • A healthy poop is a nice log shape. 
  • If your poop comes out hard and small and dry, like pellets - you can most likely blame Liver Qi stagnation with Heat.  This can be caused by emotional repression, lack of exercise, stress, anger, and frustration.  Letting go or resolving a stressful situation, getting exercise, meditation and relaxation, can all help.
  • Long, pencil shaped poops - if this happens repeatedly it could be a sign of polyps or growths in the Intestines. This needs to be checked out by your medical doctor. 


  • The best color for your poop is a lovely shade of brown.This is due to the combination of stomach bile and bilirubin, a pigment compound formed from the breakdown of red blood cells in the body.  
  • Dry, dark-brown stool means excessive heat is present in the Large Intestine.
  • White or clay colored poops could mean  alack of bile; may indicate duct obstruction. Certain medications, such as anti-diarrheal drugs containing large doses of bismuth subsalicylate like Pepto-Bismol, can also be the cause. 
  • Red or tarry colored stools could mean blood in the digestive tract. the darker and more brown it is the higher up in the digestive tract the damage might be. For example - fresh red would most likely be from a hemorrhoid, whereas dark brown blood could be from bleeding in the Stomach.



  • Absence of any smell - or a fishy odor tells us there could be cold in the Intestine.
  • Strong, offensive and foul smelling poops can mean signifies damp-heat in the Intestines. 
  • Sour smelling poops could mean a Liver and Spleen imbalance. 
  • Foul smelling poops accompanied with frequent smelly gas and bloating are a sign of damp-heat in the Intestines coupled with Spleen Qi deficiency.


Any Other Stuff in Your Poop?

  • Bits of undigested food - well that looks exactly like it means.  Your body did not actually break down everything that went in and you most likely did not get to absorb the nutrients in the food properly.  This can happen with Spleen Qi deficiency as well as improper eating - such as a high amount of processed foods with not enough fiber. 
  • Mucus in the stools -  While a bit of mucus to lubricate the Intestines helps with smoothing out bowel movements, finding mucus and phlegm in your poop can signify an infection and inflammation.  
  • Stools with yellow mucus accompanied with tenesmus (rectal heaviness) means damp-heat has accumulated in the large intestine. This usually accompanies an infection or inflammation.
  • Pus and bloody stools are seen in cases of dysentery - in Chinese medicine, a damp-heat, Blood Heat, and Blood stagnation could all be at play.