While everybody is unique and may have slightly different poop schedules, the general consensus is that you should poop about three times per week. But if you poop more often than that and it’s easy to pass, your digestion is still considered to be in good shape.
Factors that affect your poop schedule
Your personal schedule will vary from your best friend or significant other and that’s because it depends on a variety of things like your diet, age, activity level, and any condition you may have, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease.
Fiber and hydration
Getting enough fiber and staying hydrated are two important aspects of keeping yourself regular. Most adults require between 25 and 35 grams of fiber per day and if you’re falling significantly short of that, you may not be going as often. Water keeps food moving on its path and helps keep stools soft. If you’re dehydrated, you may become constipated, which could lead to straining which is never fun.
Exercise, mobility, and medications
Factors like reduced mobility and certain medications you take as you get older can also affect how often you go. Exercise, however, can help keep you regular. Before you sign up for a gym membership though, consider that an activity as simple as walking can help. Find movement you enjoy that doesn’t put unnecessary strain on your joints or your sanity. Think of exercise as a way to destress, so if your current workout routine is stressing you out, consider switching up what you’re doing.
Periods, pregnancy, and hormones
If you’ve heard the term “period poops,” you already know that your menstrual cycle can affect your schedule. The phenomenon is due to the increased production of prostaglandins right before and during your period that stimulates muscle contractions in the uterus. Unfortunately, they often affect the intestines and bowels similarly. So, if you feel cramping there as well, you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy.
In fact, a 2014 study found that 73% of healthy, premenopausal adult women with no known digestive conditions experienced gastrointestinal symptoms before or during their period. Studies also show that during menstruation and pregnancy, higher levels of prostaglandins can contribute to looser stools, while increased progesterone can contribute to constipation. Fun fact: progesterone is often called the “pregnancy hormone,” so if you’re pregnant, being constipated may be a side effect you experience.
The gut-brain connection
Stress hormones can also play a role in dictating your regularity. The gut and brain connection is strong and they influence each other. This is known as the gut-brain axis. Psychological factors like depression and anxiety can also alter bowel habits.
The most common reason for difficulty in bowel movements is a lack of fiber and fluids. So, drink your water and eat those fibrous fruits, vegetables, and grains! If you correct these habits and keep yourself active, you can easily turn things around.
How long it takes food to move through the digestive tract
You may be surprised to learn that it can take anywhere from two to five days to fully digest food and have it exit your body. Again, this will vary from person to person and even from men to women, so if you don’t have a bowel movement every day, there is no need for alarm. And if you have multiple per day, the same applies; no need to worry.
When you consume food, its first stop is through the stomach and the small intestine, and that process can take six to eight hours. It continues its journey through the large intestine and can take around 36 hours to be fully digested before you experience a bowel movement.
No one likes to be constipated. It can consist of incredibly painful abdominal cramping, and you may even feel bloated. If you have fewer than three bowel movements per week, you may be constipated. Constipation can cause stools that are hard, dry, or pebbly and may be difficult or painful to pass.
If you want to avoid constipation, follow these tips:
- Include plenty of fiber-rich foods in your diet
- Stay hydrated
- Regular physical activity—whatever you enjoy that gets you moving
- Practice stress-relieving techniques
- Regularly wash your hands
- Clean fruits and veggies before eating them and cook meat, fish, and eggs thoroughly
If you have looser stools that send you to the restroom more than three times a day, you may have diarrhea. It could last a day or a few weeks depending on which you have. There are three classifications for diarrhea.
- Acute: This type generally lasts one or two days
- Persistent: Spans between two and four weeks
- Chronic: Persists at least four weeks continually on or off
Other medical conditions
Conditions that affect the muscles and nerves may cause chronic constipation. IBS can cause both constipation and diarrhea. Other conditions that can change bowel movements include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Celiac disease
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Gallbladder stones
- Endocrine disorders, including hyperthyroidism and diabetes
- Colon polyps
If you’ve been diagnosed with any of the conditions above, talk to your doctor about how to manage your symptoms.
You should seek medical care if you experience any of the following:
- Constant constipation or diarrhea
- Weight loss not explained by any other factors
- Painful bowel movements
- Pain in the abdomen or lower back
- Bloody stools
Foods, beverages, allergies, and intolerances
If you have a food intolerance, you may avoid certain foods because they impair your digestion due to your body’s difficulty with that particular food group. If you do roll the dice with it, you may experience either diarrhea or constipation.
Diarrhea from food can be caused by:
- An allergy to cow’s milk, eggs, soy, seafood, or cereal grains
- Lactose intolerance
- Fructose intolerance
- Sugar alcohols
Alcohol can also be a contributing factor in diarrhea and constipation. It tends to depend on the type and how much you drink, but it’s worth knowing if you are someone who enjoys drinking.
Studies show that drinks with more than 15% alcohol tend to slow digestion and cause constipation. Generally, this will be your hard liquors, but some wine and beer have higher alcohol content. Drinks with less alcohol tend to speed up digestion and cause diarrhea. If you notice digestive issues when you drink, you may want to keep a diary or chat with your medical professional to get to the bottom of your symptoms.
How a high quality Prebiotic and Probiotic can help
Gut health plays a crucial role in digestive health and probiotics have long been associated with a healthy gut. Probiotics help replenish good bacteria in the intestine but you also want prebiotics because they serve as food for probiotic bacteria. That’s why we put prebiotics in our probiotic supplement. The healthy bacteria encounter prebiotic food sources as soon as the probiotics reach the intestines which allows them to reproduce so they can fight off harmful bacteria in the microbiome.
We also add ginger because it benefits gastrointestinal motility. This is the rate at which food exits the stomach and continues its journey through the digestive tract. Ginger helps encourage efficient digestion, so food doesn’t linger in the gut. And no one wants that.
A 2018 review of several studies indicates that enzymes in ginger can help break up and expel gasses that form in the intestinal tract during digestion. It also appears to have beneficial effects on the enzyme pancreatic lipase which aids digestion in the small intestine. A 2017 review determined that phytochemical properties in ginger may combat inflammation. In other words, ginger is extremely helpful in keeping the digestive process moving, breaking up unwanted gas that could cause bloating, and combating inflammation.
We created Pre+Probiotic for Women with sensitive stomachs in mind. Ginger soothes the gut, our prebiotic blend nourishes it, and our probiotic blend helps promote balance. It’s formulated to be taken with or without food but take it with at least six ounces of water. Hydration is key to good bowel health!
While everyone’s poop schedules may vary, going at least three times per week is recommended. We now know there are several factors and conditions that can affect digestion and luckily getting it back on track is relatively easy and doesn’t necessarily call for a trip to the doctor’s office. However, if you are suffering from chronic constipation or diarrhea, it’s worth scheduling an appointment to determine what is causing it and how to treat it.