It's time to talk shit. No, we're not talking about gossip about the drama on the latest episode of a Bravo reality show; we are talking about poop. The chair. Feces. Whatever you want to call it, and as uncomfortable as it may feel to talk about it, we should be doing it a lot more, suggestsZal Bulsiewicz, M.D., a gastroenterologist from Charleston, South Carolina and author ofThe fiber based cookbook.
What the appearance of your stool can tell you about your health
"Pooping is kind of a taboo, but everyone does it and it's hugely important to our health," says Bulsiewicz. He says how often you poop is related to gut transit time, or how long what you eat stays in you. Bulsiewicz points out that transit time is linked to changes in the gut microbiome, citing a 2021 study published in the journalColon.
Poop is also associated with heart health; in fact, people who defecated less than three times a week had a greater risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke, according to a 2020 study inBMJ opened. That's why it's important to share evidence-based insights to help you know what's normal — and what's not — when it comes to your poop. Read on and do your own research so you can separate what's healthy and what's off track.
What does "normal" mean?
Normal stool, called "poop" by doctors, is brown, well-formed, sausage-shaped, uniform, and thick. It should feel pretty easy - or not too much effort - to pass. Most people bake once or twice a day, and the most common time of day is upon waking or after breakfast, says Bulsiewicz.
The frequency and time of bowel movements can vary with normal bowel movements, confirmsWilliam W. Li, MD, Boston internist and scientist and author ofEat to beat your diet.Our guts are like our fingerprints - unique to each individual - so the best course of action is to familiarize yourself with your routine and noticeif you deviate from it.
"The most important thing is that you don't have any discomfort. If you don't have regular bowel movements or feel completely evacuated after going to the toilet, you may be experiencing constipation," he says.Kenneth Brown, MD, a gastroenterologist in Plano, Texas, and the host ofGood control projectpodcast.
Are you constipated? Here are the symptoms of constipation, perNational Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:
- Less than three bowel movements per week
- Hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass
- It feels like there's more stool you want to pass but can't
While constipation can be short-lived and relieved by the lifestyle adjustments listed below, constipation can also become a chronic challenge. In that case, not only is it uncomfortable with bloating and abdominal pain, but constipation can also be detrimental to your health, says Brown.
According toStanford medicine healthcare, the possible complications of chronic constipation are:
- Anal bleeding
- Anal fissure, or a small tear in the anus
- fecal impaction; in other words, a hard, dry stool that cannot be passed
- Rectal prolapse (when the colon pushes out of the rectum)
"It is completely normal not to have a bowel movement every day. But if more than several days have passed without a bowel movement, especially if you have any discomfort, swelling or pain in your lower abdomen, it is important to see a doctor .assess whether there is an obstruction blocking normal bowel movements," says Li.
On the other hand, defecating more than three times a day, having chronic diarrhea, having urgency, or waking up at night to poop are all examples of diarrhea-related issues worth talking to your doctor about, says Bulsiewicz.
According to a dietician, the fastest way to get rid of diarrhea
Factors that affect how often you fast
How often you sting is personal. You may poop more or less often than the next person because of:
You can blame your parents (in part) for your bowel movements. Research suggests that there are genetic factors that influence stool consistency and frequency, according to research inThe genomic onein 2021. Genetics can also affect your gut microbiome.
Your microbiome influences many reactions in your body, including your BMs. According to research from 2019 inFrontiers in medicine.
About one-third of all American adults over age 60 have diabetessymptoms of constipation, according toNIDDK.
What you've eaten in the last few meals, the amount of fiber you consume, and your hydration level affect how much and how often you empty, says Li.
Many underlying medical conditions can affect your bowel movements, including digestive problems such asirritable bowel syndrome(IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as other medical problems such as thyroid disease.
Certain medications can cause constipation or diarrhea as a side effect. For example, NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen), metformin (for diabetes), heartburn medications, and chemotherapy can all cause diarrhea.National Library of Medicine.
3 ways to stay regular
Try these gastroenterologist-recommended strategies to hit the sweet spot of about one bowel movement a day, or fall into a steady bowel movement routine that feels good for your gut:
- Eat a high-fiber diet:Bulsiewicz likes to compare fiber to "a canoe that floats your stool through your intestines." A balanced diet with high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans, and legumes can help promote regular bowel movements. Insufficient fiber intake can lead to constipation or irregular bowel movements. Addfoods with a high fiber contentto your next grocery list to make it easier to meet your fiber goal of 28 to 34 grams per gram. day.
- Stay hydrated:In the same boat reference, Bulsiewicz says that H2O helps "drift the poo canoe down the river. If you don't drink enough water, your canoe will get stuck on the rocks," he says. Since normal stool is 74% water, an October 2021 study found inNutrients, water intake can make a big difference in the texture of your stool -- and how easy it is to pass. You can see ityou moisten enoughby looking at your urine. It should be light yellow (similar to lemonade) or lighter. When it's darker and more like apple juice, drink it.
- Move your body:Regular exercise can help stimulate the muscles in the digestive tract and promote regular bowel movements. "It helps the canoe move quickly downstream instead of being stuck for too long," says Bulsiewicz. (No wonder many doctors consider physical activity to bepeak activity to help you urinate.) Aim for — or work up to — 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week, plus two full-body strength training sessions. Yes, walking counts as training!
When to visit a health nurse
The "red flag symptoms" related to digestion, listed below, may indicate a potentially serious underlying condition and require immediate medical attention to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment, says Bulsiewicz.
- Persistent abdominal pain:"Severe, worsening, or constant abdominal pain that lasts for hours or days could be a sign of a serious problem, such as appendicitis, an intestinal obstruction, or an inflamed gallbladder," says Bulsiewicz.
- Unexplained Weight Loss:Lose weight without making major changes to your diet or exercise routine? Bulsiewicz explains that this could be a sign of a digestive disorder, such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, or even cancer.
- Difficulty swallowing:If you constantly have trouble swallowing or experience pain when swallowing, this could indicate an injury or disease in the esophagus.
- Black, tarry stools or bloody stools:This could be a sign that there is bleeding in the GI tract, which could be caused by ulcers, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, or cancer, says Bulsiewicz.
- Repeated pencil-thin stools:If the stool is extremely thin on a regular basis, it may indicate growths (including cancerous tumors) in your colon that prevent stool from forming normally.
- Jaundice.Yellowing of the skin and eyes may indicate liver disease or bile duct obstruction.
- Persistent, unexplained digestive symptoms:Whether it's diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, acid indigestion or heartburn, even if it's mild, "when there's a change and it persists, it's worth finding out what's going on and making sure make sure it's nothing serious," says Bulsiewicz.
- Unexplained tiredness or weakness: This could be a sign of anemia, which can be caused by gastrointestinal bleeding, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get food out?
Food takes about six to eight hours to work its way through your stomach and small intestine, and then about a day and a half to pass through your large intestine for further digestion. In total, it takes an average of two to five days for everything you eat to pass through your digestive system and be excreted through your stool.
How much do you have to urinate in a day?
Again, this varies from person to person. There is no set number of times or total amount of bowel movements that is "best" for everyone, but if you poop once a day to once every three days and feel like you can pass the entire bowel movement, if your body is ready to eliminate, you are in the "normal" range.
How long can you go without peeing?
like younot peed for a few daysand it's normal for you, it's okay. It's still considered "normal" to poop three times a week, meaning you don't go every day.
Is it normal to urinate once a week?
If you have fewer than three bowel movements per week, you qualify as constipated. Most importantly, watch for significant changes in your bowel habits. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above in "When to see a healthcare provider," talk to your doctor.
How often should a healthy person urinate?
What is "healthy" or "normal" depends on your genetics and lifestyle. A healthy frequency can range from three times a day for one person to three times a week for another.
It boils down
There's no "perfect" cadence for pooping, but the average healthy person poop about once or twice a day, according to gastroenterologists. If you don't have a bowel movement for more than three days, you meet the criteria for constipation. Pay attention to what's standard for your stool and watch for red flag symptoms that could be signs of an underlying illness, whether related to the gut or not.
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Generally speaking, most people poop between 3 times a week and 3 times a day, but it is also important to be aware of poop consistency and regularity.How many times a day does a healthy body poop? ›
It's normal and healthy to have a bowel movement anywhere between three times a week to three times a day. If you're producing soft, well-formed logs that aren't hard to push out, your bowels are probably in good shape.How often should a grown woman poop? ›
Doctors generally consider it healthy if you poop anywhere between three times a day and three times a week. Many factors can influence how often you poop, including your diet, how much water you drink, and your stress levels, among others.How long can you go without pooping before it kills you? ›
Generally speaking, you can go about five days without pooping before you run into the risk of serious health issues like fecal impaction, hemorrhoids, or a bowel perforation. That said, there isn't a magic number of days to set a countdown for.Is it normal to poop once a day everyday? ›
First, let's be clear: There is no rule about the number of bowel movements a person should have each day. Some people poop several times a day. Others go every few days. “Normal” is something that each person must decide for themselves.