How often should you poop?
Stool, waste, number two, poop—there are so many ways to talk about your bowel movements, but it’s not a favorite conversation topic. The reality, though, is that everyone poops—and not only is it an essential part of life, but the frequency and consistency of your poop can also tell you what’s going on inside of your body. Bowel movements eliminate waste, bacteria, and any substances that your body cannot digest. Your gut carefully absorbs the most important stuff—nutrients and micro-nutrients—and removes the non-essentials. When you’re not regular, you’re not feeling your best and your body isn’t working at its best. If you haven’t asked “how often should you poop” yet, then it’s time to start.
How Often Should You Poop?
Experts say pooping regularly can mean anything from three bowel movements a day to three per week. There isn’t a specific number of times you should poop in a day. The frequency of your bowel movements depends on several factors, including your age, nutrition, lifestyle, and stress levels. Your overall health is more important than the number of times you poop in a day. Pay attention to how your bowel habits change. If you have regular bowel movements three times a day and feel great, then that may be your “regular.” However, if you go from pooping daily to going twice a week and feeling uncomfortable and bloated, you should check in with your healthcare provider.
Also, the changes in the consistency of your stool is just as important as the number of times you poop in a day. If you poop every other day but your poop changes from smooth to hard pellets, that could be a sign that something is off in your digestive system, and you should consult your healthcare provider. Lifestyle, dietary habits, and more affect how often you poop and how well you poop. For example, increasing your daily fiber intake with supplements like Metamucil can help promote and maintain regularity.*
10 Things That Affect How Often and How Well You Poop
1. Your Diet
Your daily diet can affect the frequency of your poop and how regular your bowel movements are. If you change your diet, your poop will change, too.
All humans experience something called a “gastrocolic reflex” In short, our intestines are sensitive to the passage of food, so they send chemical signals to the brain that prompt us to go to the toilet.
Certain foods in our diet, like fiber, stimulate bowel movements more than others.
2. The Amount of Fiber in Your Diet
Some fibers increase the frequency of bowel movements by adding bulk to your stool. This bulkiness is sensed by your intestines, which stimulates the process of elimination. You should consume about 28 grams of fiber each day to get the daily recommended fiber intake. Examples of high fiber foods include:
- Grains: whole grain pasta, oats, and quinoa.
- Legumes: lentils, kidney beans, and soybeans
- Fruits: raspberries, apples, and avocados.
- Vegetables: carrots, broccoli, green peas, and artichokes.
- Nuts: almonds peanuts, and pecans
3. Fiber Supplements Like Metamucil
Did you know only 5% of Americans get enough daily fiber from their diet? To help increase your daily fiber intake, try a fiber supplement like Metamucil , made with 100% natural psyllium fiber.
And while it does promote digestive health and help maintain regularity,* Metamucil does so much more. It also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels,* helps lower cholesterol to promote heart health,† and helps you feel less hungry between meals.*
4. Your Fluid Intake
In general, drinking water helps your body break down food and avoid constipation. Many people find that when they are dehydrated, they experience constipation.
In addition to water, other beverages that can help include warm ones like, coffee and tea, also have the effect of stimulating bowel movements.
Water also works hand-in-hand with fiber to soften your stool. Consuming fiber-rich foods with high water content, for example, carrots and apples, is a very good way to get both fiber and fluids.
If you don’t consume the fluids your body needs, you may become constipated and your poop will be hard. Constipation is a condition in which you may have fewer than three bowel movements in a week, and your stools are hard, dry, or lumpy, making them painful and difficult to pass.
5. Your Level of Physical Activity and Exercise
If your body is moving, it helps get your bowels moving, too. Engaging in physical activity and exercise can affect how often you poop. Exercise reduces the time it takes for food to pass through the large intestine. Because of the reduced time, your body will not get to absorb as much water from your stool and you would find it easier to poop.
The older we get, the more likely we are to experience irregularities in our bowel movements. One of the reasons for this is that as we age, the process of digestion slows down, and it may take more time for food to move through our intestines. This can be due to several factors, including reduced muscle tone in the muscles associated with the digestive system, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of dietary fiber, and side effects from medicines.
7. Hormonal Changes in Women
Many women experience a change in how often they poop or consistency around their monthly period, during pregnancy, or around menopause.
The common denominator here is hormonal changes. Estrogen is a hormone that can fluctuate in women. Estrogen is responsible for keeping cortisol (the stress hormone) levels low. Whenever estrogen drops, cortisol also drops, and this may slow down the digestive system, resulting in constipation.
8. Your Position on the Toilet Seat
Sitting properly on the toilet seat can promote good bowel movements. Putting your feet on a stool can help you with the complete evacuation of your poop.
9. Ignoring the Urge to Poop
Once your large intestine absorbs all the nutrients from your food, the waste travels along downwards into your rectum. Your rectum has nerves that send a message to your brain to tell it that your bowel is full and needs to be emptied. This is how you get the urge to poop.
Sometimes, factors like limited access or an aversion to public restrooms can discourage you from listening to the urge to go to the bathroom. However, if you constantly ignore this urge, you may start to experience occasional constipation. This is because you are giving your body more time to absorb the water from your large intestine.
10. Changes in Your Routine
A change in your schedule could mean that you temporarily switch to a different diet. Like if you need to travel for work, you may not be able to cook the food you normally eat. This could potentially mean consuming foods with less fiber, and consequently, less regular bowel movements. Or you may have to decrease your physical activity, which could result in fewer bowel movements.
What is My Poop Trying to Tell Me? Breaking down the Bristol Stool Form Scale
The appearance, shape, and color of your poop can tell you about what’s going on in your gut. If you notice that your poop looks different than it normally does, this can signal infection or other issues within your digestive system. If you have any concerns with your bowel movements, talk to your healthcare provider. The Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS), also known as Meyer’s scale, describes the different types of poop. The BSFS classifies poop into seven types based on its size and texture. The categories form a trail from the hardest type of poop (type 1) to the softest (type 7).
Note that normal bowel movements fall under types 3, 4, and 5. If you have types 1 or 2, you are probably constipated. If you have types 6, and 7, you may be experiencing a form of diarrhea. Color is also important in determining the type of poop you produce. A healthy stool is usually brownish. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about the color of your stool or if you notice an unexplained change in color.
How Does the Psyllium Fiber in Metamucil Help My Poop?
If you are experiencing less-than-ideal bowel movements, the fiber in Metamucil can treat occasional irregularity. The psyllium fiber in Metamucil works by forming a gel inside your digestive system that traps and removes the waste that weighs you down. Metamucil comes as a powder and capsule so you can add it to your daily routine. Be sure to read the label and use as directed. To help you kickstart healthy fiber habits, you can sign up for the Two-Week Challenge, where Metamucil will send you tips, tricks, and reminders to keep you on track to meet your fiber goals and get you more regular.
Sources (Accessed May 2020)
- NIH, “Eating, Diet & Nutrition for Constipation”
- Mayo Clinic, “Constipation”
- Piedmont Healthcare, “What Your Stool Says About Your Health”
- Harvard Health, “Constipation and Impaction”
- Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology (2019), “Implementation of a Defecation Posture Modification Device: Impact on Bowel Movement Patterns in Healthy Subjects”
- PubMed, “Gender Differences in Self-Reported Constipation Characteristics, Symptoms, and Bowel and Dietary Habits Among Patients Attending a Specialty Clinic for Constipation”
*THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THIS PRODUCT IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE, OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE.
†Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 7 grams of soluble fiber per day from psyllium husk, as in Metamucil, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. One serving of Metamucil has 2.4 grams of this soluble fiber. One serving of Metamucil capsules has at least 1.8 grams of this soluble fiber.
**Survey of 291 adults who self-reported that they felt lighter and more energetic after completing the Metamucil Two Week Challenge.
^P&G calculation based in part on data reported by Nielsen through its ScanTrack Service for the Digestive Health category for the 52-week period ending 04/27/19, for the total U.S. market, xAOC, according to the P&G custom product hierarchy. Copyright © 2019, The Nielsen Company.