Health

What's the Normal Number of Times to Poop in a Day?

french bulldog pooping
Kittibowornphatnon/Shutterstock

Everyone Poops isn't just an excellent children's book; it's a fact. No matter how much some people try to deny it, you can't outsmart biology. And you don't necessarily want to try -- didn't you ever see Jurassic Park?

The ideal frequency of bowel movements, however, has been a constant source of debate, and for some unfortunates, dismay. No one likes it when the Captain's Log is off.

But what’s really normal? We asked a gastroenterologist, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, to dump a little knowledge on us.

(You thought we wouldn’t be making poop puns in this story? That’s cute.)

Everyone poops... differently

It should hopefully come as no surprise that just because everyone poops, doesn't mean they poop with the same regularity. Whatsoever.

"There really isn't a normal amount or an abnormal amount, per se," explains Dr. Ganjhu. "Everyone’s 'normal’ is different. There are some people who have a strong gastrocolic reflex, like a baby -- the minute you feed them, they have a bowel movement, and it's a normal response from them. Others may be every other day or so... it varies."

In other words, you are the only person who knows when your pooping is off. But don't freak out if things are temporarily out of whack -- you could have just eaten something that clogged you up, or just not had Chipotle that day.

"The problem occurs when there’s a change in your normal," Dr. Ganjhu adds. "If things change for just a day or two, that can happen. But if there's acute constipation or blood, it’s a good idea to get checked out. Think about any changes in stress, diet, water, or if you’ve taken any supplements or probiotics."
 

The older you get, the more your pooping becomes a big deal

Apparently, changes in your bowel movements in your "golden years" can be more pressing than those of your youth.

"A lot of the times, if [a patient is] older, it’s a new medication, or diet. But when you’re older some changes can be linked to colon cancer, so I always research a little more there," says Dr. Ganjhu. "And the older you are, the more aware you are of your habits. So it’s easier to know when something is off."
 

There's such a thing as emotional "poo pressure"

People love to talk about poop; it's universal, yet intimate. Talking shit with your partner may even be a sign of a healthy relationship, even if it's about unhealthy bathroom patterns.

The point is that most people talk about their defecation habits, some without any reservation. And according to Dr. Ganjhu, that can be part of the problem. "There's a lot of peer pressure when it comes to pooping, believe it or not," she admits. "What I find interesting, is that I've seen girls who have bowel movements maybe every other day, and they’ve always been like that -- that's their norm. Then they go to college, and their roommates will say, 'What do you mean you don't go every day? That’s not normal.’ Then they get all freaked out and think they need to take a laxative, and then they wind up needing this laxative to poop regularly."

Maybe, in an effort to relieve some of the social pressures associated with excrement, an updated children's book is warranted: Everyone Poops (Differently).

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Liz Newman is a freelance writer for Thrillist and has accepted the fact she will never not think poop jokes are funny. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lizn813.