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Do You Have To Poop Every Day To Be Healthy?

Our bathroom habits often are the subject of jokes, but how well and how often you poop is no laughing matter. That’s because having regular bowel movements is a sign of a healthy digestive system. When your No. 2 is not as it should be, you probably don’t feel well and may be worried about what is causing the problem.

What Factors Affect Poop?

Most people poop between three times a week and three times a day. Many factors can affect the frequency and consistency of your poop, including:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Medical conditions
  • Medications and supplements
  • Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Travel

Your bowel habits likely will change throughout adulthood. That’s because your metabolism and motility slow down as you get older, which means poop stays in your colon longer and constipation can be the result.

Retraining Your Bowel

It is possible to teach your body to poop on a regular schedule. Once your doctor has ruled out other causes for the inability to control bowel movements, incomplete emptying or chronic constipation, you can begin learning strategies to establish bowel control.

First, you should try to improve the quality of your poop to make it easier to pass. Eat well-balanced, regularly timed meals that are high in fiber, including whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables. When you increase fiber, be sure to drink enough fluids to keep your poop from becoming hard.

Next, establish a regular time for pooping. The time should be convenient and not rushed. You can take advantage of the wave-like movements that propel the fecal material through the colon to the rectum if you plan your pooping time for 20 to 30 minutes after a meal.

Finally, your body may need a stimulus to help empty the rectum. A meal or hot drink helps some people, and others may need to use suppositories, enemas or laxatives if recommended by their doctor to get the colon moving.

When To Worry

If you experience sudden or gradual changes in your bowel habits, you should consult with a doctor. Such changes include differences in the way that you poop, blood or mucus in your stool or severe anal or abdominal pain when you poop.

You also might be concerned if you have gone more than three days without pooping or feel like you can’t go.

Types of Poop

You should also be aware of how your poop looks. Developed in the late 1990s, the Bristol Stool Form Scale categorizes the different forms of poop and what they may mean. It includes:

  • Type 1: Separate hard lumps indicate severe constipation
  • Type 2: Lumpy and sausage-like shape indicates mild constipation
  • Type 3: A sausage shape with cracks in the surface is normal
  • Type 4: A smooth, soft sausage or snake shape is normal
  • Type 5: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges indicate a lack of fiber
  • Type 6: Mushy consistency with ragged edges indicates mild diarrhea
  • Type 7: Liquid consistency with no solid pieces indicates severe diarrhea

This scale is useful when determining if you are getting the fiber and hydration you need for healthy bowel function. If you have hard stools, you likely are not getting enough of either. Loose bowel movements may mean you need more fiber or represent an underlying medical condition, such as gastroenteritis or irritable bowel syndrome. Poorly formed stools also can lead to excessive wiping, which can cause irritation and other issues.

Coping With Constipation

There are many different types of constipation. It can be related to something as simple as traveling or another change in your daily habits. Or constipation can be caused by a common medical condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Other culprits are colonic inertia, which is when stool passes through the intestines slowly, and obstructive defecation syndrome, which involves difficulty emptying the rectum.

The best way to avoid constipation is to eat a healthy diet with enough fiber and adequate hydration. Aim for about 25 grams of fiber and 2 liters of fluids per day. Achieving a healthy weight and participating in regular exercise also can help.

Even with good dietary habits, some people still have constipation. That’s when over-the-counter medications, such as laxatives and stool softeners, are recommended. If medications don’t relieve your constipation, your doctor will order tests to see if there is an underlying cause. 

You shouldn’t ignore persistent constipation because over time it can lead to other health problems, such as hemorrhoids, pelvic floor issues and even pelvic organ prolapse. Also, passing hard stools can put you at risk for painful conditions like anal fissures, which can be difficult to treat.

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