In many things, we agree to disagree. After all, it’s different strokes for different folks. But when it comes to health, we assume what’s healthy for one person is healthy for everyone. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Everyone poops. It’s considered an indicator of good health, and the more you go, the better your metabolism. You may pat yourself on the shoulder, proud that your digestive system works with clockwork precision. Yet, you may find out your friend is going three times a day and think you weren’t so regular after all. Should you then worry about being constipated? Or should you suggest your roommate see a doctor?
While we assume that a certain number of bowel movements a week is normal, there is no set number. It’s true, some adults go three times a week, while others go three times a day. If you want to understand what influences your bathroom habits, there are a few factors to consider.
Factors that impact the frequency of bowel movements
- Genetics—some of the subtle ways that your body works are hardwired in your genes, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- Diet—the more fiber you consume, the more frequently you go.
- Exercise—regular physical activity has been proven to promote regularity, as it increases muscle contractions in the colon.
- Stress—your brain and your gut are closely connected. When you’re stressed, your body directs blood flow to the lungs and the heart and away from the organs of the digestive system.
- Medications—some meds list constipation as a side effect, and some may make your intestines more active.
Of course, coming to terms with your bowel movement frequency doesn’t mean you have to send caution to the wind. After all, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in your body. And there are times when the changes in your bathroom habits are a serious cause for concern and require medical attention. Namely, if the change is abrupt and drastic.
Other worrisome symptoms to watch out for, even if your frequency hasn’t changed, including blood in the stool; narrow, ribbon-like stools; or pain and cramps during a bowel movement. These can indicate a serious condition like IBS, celiac disease, IBD, or even colorectal cancer. See your doctor for necessary testing, as it’s one of those cases where it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Related: Bowel movements: How often should you poop?