Fact: Some people poop once a day — or even a few times a day. A recent Healthline survey found that about 50 percent of people poop on a daily basis.
But what if you don’t? At what point are you backed up vs. this is just another scenario in which everything is normal and bodies are different? How often should you poop, and when is it time to be concerned? After all, poop does tell us a lot about our health. So should you be worried if you don’t poop every day? Here’s what some gastroenterologists think.
If you’ve had questions like these before or have been a bit worried when a day or two has gone by and you haven’t had a bowel movement, you’re not alone. Reddit is one of many places inundated with concerns like these, from “Is it normal to not poop in 24 hours?” to “To people who poop everyday [sic], how?”
What could be behind not pooping as often? Some common causes of constipation include inadequate fiber intake, dehydration, irritable bowel syndrome, stress, certain medications, a lack of exercise, uncoordinated movements between abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, not going when you have the urge to go and a change in routine, such as going on vacation or a pregnancy.
Do I need to worry?
If you don’t poop on a daily basis, most likely you’re just fine. Not everyone poops every day. “Anywhere between three bowel movements per day to three bowel movements per week is considered normal,” Dr. Ali Khan, a gastroenterologist with Gastro Health in Fairfax, Va., tells Yahoo Life.
Boxer agrees. However, he notes that “on average, most people do have a bowel movement about once a day, though.”
While it’s likely not a sign that something is wrong if you don’t poop daily, both Khan and Boxer recommend looking out for additional symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating and — in severe cases — nausea and vomiting.
Boxer recommends that you not ignore signs of discomfort. “If someone is struggling to have a bowel movement, straining, bloated, has painful constipation, experiences urgency when they need to have a bowel movement, has a change from their standard regimen of bowel movements or really anything else that is concerning to the patient, then these are a concern to me as their physician,” he says. “I also get nervous when a patient has alert signs or symptoms such as blood in the stool, weight loss, anemia and others.”
Additionally, it’s worth letting your doctor know if there’s been a change in your bowel movements, such as if you used to be regular but now you’re not. “It is important to seek medical care if there is a change in bowel habits, especially later in life — for example, new constipation after the age of 50,” Khan says. He also says not pooping or passing gas after surgery is an indicator that a trip to the doctor is warranted.
Constipation that’s severe or prolonged — and the straining to go to the bathroom that often accompanies it — can have some painful effects, according to Khan. He lists anal fissures, which are tears or cuts in the anus, as well as hemorrhoids, which are dilated veins in the rectum or anus that can cause discomfort, itching and even bleeding.
Fecal impaction can occur as well, says Khan, “which is when stool stays in the rectum for so long that it becomes dry and cannot be expelled naturally, so it must be removed with [a health care provider’s] finger” to break up the mass so it can come out.
Boxer says constipation to the point of obstruction is rare. However, he does have a new concern. “Up until a few weeks ago, I would have said there was really no major damage,” Boxer says. “Yet, a few weeks ago, at the International Alzheimer’s Conference, new groundbreaking research showed that patients with infrequent bowel movements are at higher risks for dementia.” So, again, while paying attention to how often you poop may seem gross, it’s important.
What can I do about it?
First, lifestyle modifications “such as regular sleep, exercise, good hydration and eating fresh fruits and vegetables can help,” Boxer says.
Khan believes addressing the root cause is crucial. For example, you may need more fiber in your diet. “Incorporating two kiwis per day, prunes or prune juice and psyllium husk or any other kind of soluble fiber such as oats or flax seeds, are great places to start for those with mild constipation,” he says.
Other natural treatments might entail drinking more water and practicing meditation to reduce stress. “Staying adequately hydrated and stress reduction can go a long way in helping facilitate bowel movements,” Khan says.
You might also consider a stool softener or laxative, he says, using it as directed.
If these measures don’t help or you have further questions regarding your bowel habits, both Khan and Boxer agree that seeing a gastroenterologist is your next best step.
The main takeaway
Not pooping daily isn’t out of the norm, so you probably don’t need to be concerned. However, if it lasts longer than three days, differs from your typical schedule, comes with other symptoms or isn’t helped by lifestyle changes, it’s worth getting checked out by your health care provider.