Bowel movements happen at different frequencies for everyone; the average range is anywhere from three times per day to three times per week.
Factors like diet, age, lifestyle, health conditions, and medications can influence how often you poop.
If you are struggling to poop regularly, experts recommend increasing your fiber intake, drinking more water, and trying over-the-counter laxatives or stool softeners, depending on your needs.
Everybody poops. After all, bowel movements are a critical part of digestion and getting rid of waste.
Pooping every day, however, is something that not everyone does. Some people go multiple times per day, while others may only go a few times each week.
Is a daily bowel movement the ideal? Whether you’re someone who poops daily or not, here’s what experts have to say about how frequency impacts your health.
How Often Should You Be Pooping?
There is no universally recommended frequency or cadence for bowel movements, Babak Firoozi, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told Verywell.
Generally speaking, most people without significant medical issues or health conditions typically experience bowel movements between three times a day to three times a week. This is based on a 2010 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, which reported that 98% of participants in the general adult population fell within the same frequency for bowel movements.
However, if you don’t poop at the same frequency mentioned in the study, there’s no need to panic, Firoozi said. It’s standard for people to have their own routine and individual differences in bowel habits are perfectly normal. What matters is following what is most typical for you, he added.
“Some people go at least three times a week and on the other end of the spectrum, some people go more than once a day,” said Firoozi. “As long as that’s their normal pattern, that’s OK.”
Could Not Pooping Daily Be Cause for Concern?
If you are someone who does not poop daily, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong, Andrew DuPont, MD, a gastroenterologist with UTHealth Houston, told Verywell. It’s totally normal to have different frequencies of bowel movements, and not pooping daily does not automatically signal any issues or cause for concern.
“Some people just have slower motility or contract less and therefore they may go less frequently,” DuPont said.
Others may not go daily because they may have medical conditions that can affect their bowel health, including functional constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal discomfort, gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”), or inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease.
Firoozi added that the most important thing is to understand your own regular pattern and ensure that you’re not experiencing any discomfort, pain, or other digestive issues.
“I think people get it in their minds that they have to go every day otherwise it’s not good for their health. But that’s not the case, as long as you’re regular,” Firoozi said. “You should be consistent and you should not have any discomfort. Don’t worry if you don’t go on a given day.”
If you have concerns about your bowel habits or notice sudden changes, such as persistent constipation or an unexpected increase in the frequency of your bowel movements, Firoozi recommends contacting your healthcare provider for personalized guidance.
What Factors Impact Bowel Movement?
According to DuPont and Firoozi, many factors can impact how often you poop, including lifestyle changes, medical conditions, and biological factors.
Diet: What you eat and drink can affect your digestion and impact your bowel movements, DuPont said. For example, if your diet is low in fiber, it can make stool more difficult to pass, increasing your likelihood of constipation. In addition, what you drink can also impact stool consistency and frequency. Drinking plenty of fluids can help soften the stool, while inadequate fluid intake can lead to constipation.
Physical activity: Regular exercise can help bowel motility, which is the movement of your bowels, Firoozi said. Exercise helps with digestion by lowering the time it takes for food to move through the large intestine.
Medical conditions: Some health issues, such as IBS, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and thyroid disorders, can impact bowel movements because they may cause constipation and diarrhea, DuPont said. Other conditions that can affect bowel movement include diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and Celiac disease.
Medications: Certain medications can slow down the movement of your bowels, and may cause constipation or other side effects, said Firoozi. Common medications that can affect bowel movement include chemotherapy medicines used to treat cancer, drugs used to treat stomach ulcers or heartburn, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, and Metformin (used to treat diabetes).
Age: Bowel habits can change as you age, with constipation being more common in older adults, Firoozi said. Metabolism slows down over time, and so does bowel motility and the mobility of intestines.
How to Have Regular Bowel Movements
If you are struggling to poop consistently, there are natural remedies, habits, and over-the-counter medicines you can turn to before seeking a prescription, Firoozi said. These include:
Dietary fiber: Consider adding fiber to your diet through fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes or by taking fiber supplements like Metamucil or Benefiber. Increasing your fiber intake can add bulk to your stool and help with movement through the digestive tract.
Hydration: The more hydrated you are, the better it is for the consistency of your stool since maintaining hydration helps soften stool and promote regular bowel regularity. Firoozi suggests drinking at least 6 to 8 cups of water a day.
Regular exercise: Moving regularly reduces the time it takes for food to move through the large intestine, improving the overall efficiency of the digestive process.
Establish a routine: Dedicating specific times for bathroom breaks can help encourage healthy and regular bowel habits. For instance, plan to use the bathroom in the morning or right after a meal. Be patient when you are on the toilet, as it may take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to have any bowel movement.
Over-the-counter medications: If some of these natural remedies do not help promote regular bowel movement, DuPont said you may want to consider using an over-the-counter laxative or stool softener, depending on your needs. Laxatives can be used if your bowel movement is more severe and you need immediate relief, while stool softeners can be used for temporary or mild constipation.
If you continue to struggle with constipation or fail to have regular bowel movements even after trying the methods listed above, reach out to your healthcare provider, Firoozi said. You should also connect with a qualified provider if you have a family history of colon cancer or notice any rapid change in bowel movements, bleeding, or weight loss.
What This Means For You
Most people have bowel movements between three times per week to three times per day, but if you don’t poop at this frequency, there’s no need to stress out. What’s more important is understanding your own regular pattern and ensuring that you’re not experiencing any discomfort, pain, or constipation.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.