Bowel movements: How often should you poop?

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Colon And Digestive | Sunday, September 25, 2016 - 08:30 AM

flush toiletIf you suffer from constipation, you probably don’t visit the washroom very often. If you don’t have constipation, or diarrhea for that matter, but still visit the bathroom numerous times a day, is that normal?

When it comes to bowel movements, it’s hard to know for sure what’s normal and what’s not, because we’re all different. A person’s unique diet, physical activity level, and age can all contribute to how often one visits the bathroom. You may believe that as long as your stool is somewhat solid and of a healthy color, it doesn’t matter how often you go. However, if you go “too often,” regardless of what your stool looks like, something can be wrong.

How often should you “go”?

When it comes to regularity, what’s the ideal number? As mentioned, it’s difficult to set a normal amount of times to go, but typically, on average, people tend to visit the bathroom for number two activity about three times a week, or three times a day.

It can vary for each person, so knowing your own bathroom routine is important to spot any changes. If you fall on the lower spectrum, typically going three times a week, it would then be weird if you started going daily. On the other hand, if you go three times a day, but then suddenly you switch to three times a week, that is also a cause for concern.

What it means when you have abnormal bowel movements

So you’ve noticed changes in your bowel movements, and yet you don’t feel sick. Should you still be concerned? The answer is, yes.

First and foremost, it’s important to determine how long the changes have persisted to help you narrow down the culprit. Another important factor to examine is your diet. Have you changed your diet and, in turn, your bowel movements have changed? For example, short-term stool changes can result from an increase in alcohol or even artificial sweeteners.

Additionally, if you’ve aimed to eat healthier and have increased your fiber content – either from fruits, vegetables, or whole grains – this can lead to softened stool, so you don’t need to worry too much in that case.

If you’re fighting off an infection and taking medications, these can affect your stool, too.
If diet or medication cannot be pinpointed as the cause of your bowel changes, you will have to look back at longevity. If your bowel movements don’t return to normal after two weeks, it may be time to visit your doctor.

Lastly, if bowel movement changes are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, blood in the stool, or abdominal pain, seek medical attention immediately.

How you doctor can help

Based on your symptoms, your doctor can run specific tests to narrow down possible culprits. Symptoms like gas, bloating, joint pain, and mouth sores are common symptoms of celiac disease. Your doctor may request a colonoscopy or advise you to steer clear of foods containing gluten to see if the symptoms go away.

Blood in the stool also warrants a colonoscopy, as it is a common symptom of many inflammatory bowel diseases. If that test comes back clean, the potential cause may be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

How to minimize trips to the bathroom

If you want to decrease the number of visits you make to the bathroom, there are a few things to consider. One step may be to look at your diet. Are you eating too much fiber or too little? Try switching your fiber from insoluble to soluble (found in oats and apples).

Check for any food intolerances because these reactions may lead to more frequent trips to the bathroom as well.

Antibiotics can minimize your good bacteria count. If you’re taking any, it may be a good idea to take a probiotic to offer your digestive tract some relief.

Other ways to promote healthy bowel movements include:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating enough fiber
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt
  • Avoid unhealthy foods

We can learn a lot from our trips to the bathroom by taking the time to notice and recognize any changes in our routine.

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