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What are Regular Bowel Movements? | The Truth About Poop

how to have regular bowel movementsIt is true that going to poop is an autonomous process to a high degree. Intestine motility is controlled by a number of factors like the amount of food and type of food consumed, which decides time taken for digestion. Moreover, eating food stimulates various receptors, thus regulating the bowel movement. It also means that different food items can either stimulate or inhibit bowel movement.

We eat a lot during the day, digest the food items, absorb all the beneficial nutrients, and then the body must get rid of waste materials, indigestible elements, and keep the digestive system running optimally. It means that not only does the frequency of food intake matters, equally important is the frequency of defecation.

The human digestive tract starts from the mouth and ends at the rectum. Amid the extreme ends of the tract, mixing of food with digestive juices, digestion, absorption of nutrients occurs. Finally, digested food items reach the distal part of the tract for evacuation.

Another critical factor in bowel movement is the role of the autonomic nervous system. Sympathetic nerves stimulate intestinal motility and urge to defecate, whereas, the parasympathetic nervous system has a calming effect. During the night, the parasympathetic system dominates, thus preventing the urge to have a bowel movement. On the contrary, anxiety may stimulate the nervous system and may cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

It is true that most internal organs run autonomously. But habits and daily rhythm can affect the working of these organs. This explains why people often use the restroom around the same time each day. It means that how frequently one has a bowel movement will also depend on lifestyle and habits.

There is considerable variance in the individual urge to defecate too. Therefore, no surprise that some people get worried about their bowel habits. However, they are a bit embarrassed to ask anyone. Going too frequently or too infrequently, both can be bad for the wellbeing.

How Many Times a Day Should You Poo?

Ideally, one should eat 3x a day. Similarly, you should have at least one bowel movement in a day. However, there are substantial individual differences. Gut health specialists think that up to three bowel movements a day are also normal. Likewise, as few as three bowel movements in a week is also fine.

Generally, if the bowel movement is in the range mentioned above, and the person feels well, then perhaps everything is fine. How a person feels matters a lot. If health is suboptimal, even three times a day could be too much or three times a week can be viewed as too few movements.

Consistency Matters

It is not all about the frequency. A person may have a daily movement, but if it takes too long to poo and what comes out is hard and dry, it is still bad for health. It may indicate some underlying health issue or dietary problems.

In a healthy individual, poop should be light to dark brown in color and should be of soft consistency. Green poop may say that intestine is working too fast. Black color may indicate intestinal bleeding, a reason to worry. Poop becomes yellow when the body cannot digest fats, or white when the liver fails to secrete bile salts. However, some food items may also change the color of poop, like eating too many berries. Therefore, one should only worry if changes in color are a consistent feature, along with changes in bowel movement or other symptoms.

Adults may habitually go to the toilet and may control a number of bowel movements. However, very hard poop, like pebbles or cracked, may still say about intestinal problem or constipation. On the other hand, liquid stool, even if it happens just three times a day may still say about diarrhea. Just take an example of chronic diarrhea, when a number of bowel movements may not exceed three times a day, but it still causes nutritional deficiency. So, apart from a number of bowel movements, pay attention to the color and consistency.

Diarrhea and Causes

Means passing of liquid or semi-liquid stool more than three times a day. It could be an acute problem lasting for 2-3 days. Or a chronic condition that may last more than a month. Untreated diarrhea may lead to dehydration, malnutrition.

Acute diarrhea is often the symptoms of some infection (bacterial, viral, and so on), it may also happen due to food poisoning, lactose intolerance, some food allergies, traveling, parasites, antibiotics, and so on. In modern times, it is rarely a health threat, though in some cases it may quickly lead to dehydration requiring infusion therapy.

Chronic diarrhea is emerging a significant health threat in the last few years as it is often caused due to wrong dietary habits, lifestyle diseases, chronic and difficult to treat ailments. In many cases, dietary and lifestyle changes may help.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common causes of chronic diarrhea, cramping, altered bowel movement. It frequently causes chronic diarrhea, though it may also cause constipation. Lifestyle and dietary changes help treat the condition.

Inflammatory bowel disease due to inflammatory condition or autoimmune diseases may also cause severe and prolonged diarrhea.

However, most common causes of increased bowel movements are food intolerances, celiac disease (gluten sensitivity), endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism, diabetes, and similar chronic health conditions.

In diarrhea, taking care of dehydration by drinking enough of liquid is the most important thing to do. In chronic diarrhea, one must also take care of malnutrition through dietary improvements and supplementation.

Severe dehydration, dry mouth, dizziness, confusion, signs of bleeding, high temperature, severe stomach pain are all red flags requiring medical attention.

Constipation and Causes

If a person has fewer than three bowel movements a week, then it is constipation. Poop in such a case is dry and hard, and the person has difficulty in passing stools. Quite like diarrhea, it is not a disease, rather a symptom of other disease condition.

It can happen for a number of reasons like diet poor in fibers; it is also more common in the older population group.

Constipation is frequently associated with certain medications, especially narcotics, opioids, anti-depressants, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, aluminum contain antacids, calcium channel blockers (used to treat hypertension).

It is more commonly associated with metabolic disorders like diabetes with severe autonomic neuropathy, severe hypothyroidism, hypokalemia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, spinal injury, depression, certain types of cancers.

Long-lasting constipation, constant straining when trying to pass poo may cause hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectal prolapse, and much more.

Foods that Inhibit Intestinal Motility

These foods may be good for those living with chronic diarrhea, though not all, a person will need to exclude food allergies, treat underlying causes. Eating these food items can certainly help reduce the risk of diarrhea. However, remember that chronic diarrhea is mostly due to mental causes, stress, or food intolerances.

One of the good diets in diarrhea is the BRAT diet, that is “bananas, rice, apples, and toast.”  Broth can also be good. Coconut water, if available, is an excellent source of electrolytes. Weak tea can also help.

Drinking lots of fluid is good when living with diarrhea; starchy soups may also help soothing gastrointestinal tract. Oral rehydration salts may help keep rehydrated.

Foods that Stimulate Intestinal Motility

Chronic constipation is a problem for many people. Some habitually do not drink enough fluids, while others have delayed colonic transit due to unknown causes.

To keep your gastrointestinal tract working, include lots of dietary fiber in your meals. An adult should consume at least 18 g for dietary fiber a day; however, ideally, it should be more than 30 g.

  • Apples– are an excellent source of fiber, not to say other nutrients. Apple is rich in both digestible and indigestible fiber, meaning it stimulates bowel syndrome, softens stool. Apples can be consumed raw or can be added to foods like yogurt.
  • Prunes– are known as a natural laxative, and just one ounce of them contain two grams of fiber and are also an excellent source of sorbitol. Sorbitol is a kind of sugar that stimulates intestinal motility.
  • Kiwifruit– another good source of dietary fiber, that helps regularize intestinal motility.
  • Flaxseeds– are frequently recommended as a treatment of constipation. One teaspoon of flaxseeds a day keeps constipation away.
  • Kefir- is an excellent source of probiotics and may help regularize motility in the long run.
  • Lentils- are rich in fiber, a good source of dietary proteins, and are known to promote intestinal motility.
  • Chia seeds- one ounce contains whopping 11 g of fiber, along with beneficial fatty acids.

Pooping is a natural process. However, certain habits can help regularize bowel emptying, improve the color and consistency of your poop.

Though individual differences exist, nonetheless, most people should empty their bowels once a day. Too much variation of frequency may indicate health issues.

Similarly, poop should be light brown to dark brown in color and any changes in color over a prolonged period may point at problems related to the digestion.

Finally, make sure that poop is neither very hard nor watery. Bowel emptying should bring relief to a certain degree. Act of defecation should not be strained or painful.

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