Experts explain how often you should poop – and what to do if it’s not regular enough

By Staff 8 Min Read

Experts say the number one question about number twos is ‘how often should I go?’ rapidly followed by ‘how can I be more regular?’. But the answers aren’t as straightforward as you might think …

On average, most of us poo anywhere between three times a day to three times a week. But what can disrupt this rhythm?

Well, quite a lot unfortunately. A change in diet, not taking enough exercise, medication and depression are all factors in constipation. But now experts have not only shared some tips on how to make yourself poop more regularly, they have also discussed how often you should find yourself on the loo. And frustratingly there is no real magic number – as it is all down to the individual.

Dr Anju Malieckal, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Hospital in Brooklyn, told TODAY that everybody’s bowel movement schedule is different. Some poop every day, while others only need to go every two to three days.

Jena Casper, a nurse practitioner in gastroenterology at the Mayo Clinic Health System, says some struggle on the toilet when away from home, whether that’s on holiday, at work, or anywhere that isn’t their own toilet. She also adds that how often we have a motion can also change as we get older.

Quality not quantity

Interestingly, more bowel movements don’t neccessarily mean better, says Dr Christine Lee, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic.

She explained: “It’s really not about how often you go to the bathroom. What’s more important is how well you got the job done. If you feel good, empty, relieved … and you have no pressure or pain, that’s a pretty good indication.”

Dr Lee says a normal stool should typically be some shade of brown, smooth, and not too soft or firm. She says going multiple times a day could just mean you need several visits to ‘get the job done’. Experts agree the overall goal should be to have quality bowel movements rather than a set number.

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How to have a regular bowel movement

An article, published by Medical News Today, shared seven foods and drinks that should help you get back on track if you’re experiencing the misery of constipation.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms, typically bacteria or yeast, that offer numerous health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. Often referred to as ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria, probiotics are similar to the beneficial microorganisms naturally found in the human gut.

They play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential for optimal digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall well-being. A 2017 review revealed that probiotics could improve constipation by up to 40 per cent compared with a placebo. Examples of some probiotics include yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut.

Olive and flaxseed oils

Both olive and flaxseed oils are known to have a gentle laxative effect which can help to ease intestinal flow. They also possess compounds that improve digestion and have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

Pulses

Pulses are a type of legume that includes various edible seeds harvested from pods. Common types of pulses include beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas.

They are highly nutritious, rich in protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, making them an essential part of a balanced diet, particularly for vegetarians and vegans The British Heart Foundation says they can aid weight loss and help protect against bowel cancer.

High-fibre fruits

An extremely common cause of constipation is not eating enough fibre. This plays a crucial role in maintaining digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing getting ‘bunged up’.

Additionally, a high-fibre diet has been linked to various health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, improved blood sugar control, and weight management. Medical News Today recommends apples, pears, kiwifruit, grapes, blackberries, prunes and raspberries to help constipation.

Fibrous vegetables

Vegetables high in insoluble fibre can go some way to promoting more regular bowel movements. Some vegetables high in soluble fibre include sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and carrots.

Whole wheat bread, cereals, and pasta

All three of these are a great source of fibre. It is advised to not overcook them so you can extract more nutrients.

Water

This is a real biggie! Not drinking enough fluids is a massive cause of constipation, so upping your water intake or intake of any liquids should definitely help. The NHS recommends drinking six to eight glasses of fluid a day.

When to see a doctor about constipation

You should speak to your GP if you:

  • Are constipated and it’s not getting better with treatment
  • Are regularly constipated
  • Are regularly bloated
  • Have blood in your poo
  • Have lost weight without trying
  • Are constipated and feel tired all the time
  • Are taking medicine that’s causing constipation – such as opioid painkillers
  • Notice sudden changes in the how you poo (your bowel habits)
  • Have tummy pain.

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