How often should you poop? Gastroenterologists explain

What does it truly mean if you don't poop every day? Experts reveal insights into the significance, while exploring the dietary effects and identifying foods that aid better digestion.

  (photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK)
(photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK)

Everyone poops, but contrary to popular belief, having a bowel movement every day isn't actually necessary.

Gastroenterologist Dr. Folasade May, a member of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, debunks this misconception, telling CNN, "I even have people who try and make appointments, because they say, 'Oh, I stopped having a bowel movement every single day a few years ago.' And I have to remind people that there's really not a fixed or normal number of bowel movements."

May further explains, "Most people will have anywhere between a bowel movement up to three times a day to three times per week. Anywhere in that range, we consider normal."

How often should you poop and what impacts bowel movement frequency?

Many people tend to gauge their health by the frequency of their poops. However, that's not the only determining factor. Various elements, including diet, hydration, stress levels, age, medication usage, and social circumstances, can influence how often we have bowel movements. According to Dr. Trisha Pasricha, of Harvard Medical School, factors such as diet, age, medication, hydration, and stress can all play roles. Writing in The Washington Post, she noted that women and the elderly tend to poop less frequently and that people in India tend to have over twice as many bowel movements as Americans each week due to a higher number of vegetarians and therefore diets higher in fiber.

Assessing the appearance of your stool is just as crucial as evaluating its frequency, and many medical professionals refer to the Bristol stool chart to evaluate stool quality.

 Bamboo compostable toilet paper.  (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Bamboo compostable toilet paper. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis, as well as specific medications like opioids and antidepressants, can disrupt regular bowel movements. Additionally, factors such as childbirth, weight fluctuations, and pelvic floor dysfunction may make passing stool more challenging, May told CNN.

Stress can have a considerable impact on bowel movements. When we eat, our stomach stretches, sending signals to the brain and spinal cord, which in turn trigger contractions in the colon, leading to bowel movements. However, stress can interfere with this process due to hormonal changes and alterations in the nervous system, potentially resulting in constipation. Conversely, some individuals experience diarrhea when under stress.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.