Digestive Health

Updated 02 October 2017

How often should you poo?

Some people 'drop-off' once a day while others only do number two once a week.

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Some people euphemistically call it "taking a dump", others refer to it as “parking your breakfast” and in polite conversation you would say “nature is calling.”

However, as far as our bowels are concerned, we all have to poop. What goes in must come out.

But how often should it “come out” you might wonder? For some people it seems like they are eating truckloads of food, but only do a number two a few times a week, whereas other people eat like birds and have a bowel movement twice a day.

The answer is not as straightforward as you may think: It is completely different for every person, says Dr Danie Pauw from Health24. “One to three times per day is considered normal for some people, and others only go to the bathroom a few times per week. But it should not be less than three times per week!”

Changes in frequency

According to Dr Pauw you should not be too worried about your frequency, but rather if your frequency changes, especially after the age of 50.

“Certain foods can change one's frequency, but each person is different. In general, caffeine stimulates the bowels. Those who are lactose intolerant will experience looser stools after ingestion,” says Dr Pauw. “It’s important to be aware of which foods affect your bowels. And if you ignore your body's signals [to go], they will become weaker over time.”

If you are worried that your diet may be causing constipation, complete our quiz to find out.

When things become serious…

For the most part irregular bowel movements are just a temporarily inconvenience, but according to Dr Pauw there are many instances where this can become a serious disorder.

“Inflammatory bowel disease, IBS and metabolic diseases such as diabetes and thyroid problems are all associated with irregularity.”

Research from Mayo Clinic advises patients to visit a doctor if:

  • there is a sudden change in the consistency, volume or appearance of your stool,
  • you experience abdominal pain, or
  • there is blood, mucus or pus in your faeces

Things you can try to be more regular:

  • A high-fibre diet (wholegrains, nuts, dried fruit, bran cereal etc.)
  • Enough water (see other health benefits of water here)
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin C is known to relieve constipation
  • More exercise
  • Setting aside relaxed times for bowel movements
  • Eating more cooked and raw vegetables and fruits

Read more:

Constipation in children

Large bowel resection

Meditation may ease Irritable Bowel Syndrome

 

Ask the Expert

Digestive Health Expert

Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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