Pooping is an essential bodily function that varies from person to person. While some individuals may have a bowel movement every day, others may go several days without one. So, how often should you poop? According to experts in gastroenterology, there isn’t a fixed or “normal” number of bowel movements that applies to everyone. Rather, what matters more is the quality of your bowel movements and other factors that influence digestive health.
The misconception that a daily bowel movement equates to better health likely stems from Victorian-era beliefs. Dr. Folasade May, a gastroenterologist and associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, shared that she encounters patients who believe they should have a bowel movement every day. However, this notion is not accurate, as most individuals can have anywhere from one bowel movement a day to three times a week, and all of these are considered normal.
The frequency of bowel movements is just one aspect of assessing digestive health. Medical professionals emphasize that the appearance and consistency of stools are equally important. The Bristol Stool Chart, which classifies stools into seven groups, helps gauge the quality of bowel movements. Types three and four are considered the healthiest, resembling a sausage or a smooth snake.
If you’re pooping three times per week but experiencing hard or pebble-like stools, it might be fine if it doesn’t affect your quality of life. However, if you find yourself straining excessively or feeling like your bowels aren’t completely empty, it may be necessary to adjust your habits to either poop more often or improve the quality of your stools.
Making wise food choices is crucial for maintaining healthy bowel movements. Eating enough fibre from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts can help prevent constipation. The recommended daily fibre intake is around 25 grams according to the US Food and Drug Administration. It’s also essential to stay hydrated, as sufficient water intake softens the stool, making it easier to pass.
Certain foods, like kiwis and prunes, can be especially helpful for relieving constipation. However, excessive fibre intake might lead to abdominal bloating or loose stools, so it’s essential to strike a balance in your diet.
Exercise is another crucial factor influencing bowel movements. Sedentary lifestyles can contribute to sluggish digestion, while regular physical activity promotes the movement of food through the digestive tract and aids in passing stool.
Aside from diet and exercise, several other factors can influence bowel regularity. Genetics play a role, as the speed of food movement through the digestive tract can vary from person to person. Additionally, age-related changes can lead to a slower digestive system. Certain medical conditions and medications, such as hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, opioids, and antidepressants, can also impact bowel regularity.
Stress is another significant factor affecting bowel movements. When we’re stressed, hormonal and nervous system changes can hinder the movement of poop through the colon, leading to constipation. On the other hand, some individuals may experience diarrhea when under stress.
Environmental and social circumstances can also affect bowel regularity. The availability of bathrooms and the comfort level of using them in public places can influence whether an individual responds to the urge to poop promptly or delays it, leading to irregularity.
Experts emphasize that if you experience persistent issues with your bowel movements, such as spending more than 5-10 minutes on the toilet or experiencing abdominal pain or bloating, it’s essential to consult a doctor. Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise modifications, can often help, but in some cases, medications or laxatives may be prescribed to aid in regularity.
In conclusion, the frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should poop. Instead, focus on the quality of your bowel movements and pay attention to other factors like diet, hydration, exercise, and stress levels. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle and promptly addressing any persistent bowel issues can contribute to better digestive health. Remember, when it comes to bowel movements, what’s most important is finding the right balance for your body and overall well-being.