How Often Should You Poop? Your Questions Answered

By Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
May 3, 2022

While not a typical topic of conversation, your poop can give insight into the overall health of your body.

How often you poop, what your poop looks like, smells like, and its consistency all give clues to the state of your health.

Many people have questions about their bowel movements and wonder if they have a healthy bowel movement pattern.

Your digestive system is an amazingly efficient system of organs and enzymes working together to digest your food, remove the nutrients your body needs, and eliminate waste.

Some factors can get in the way of its efficiency, however. 

In this article, we will discuss how often you should be pooping and what things can affect the frequency of your bowel movements.

We will then go over signs that are of concern and what other considerations you should be looking for in your poop.

How Often Should You Poop?

If you are wondering if you are constipated, you are not alone.

In the U.S., there are at least 2.5 million visits to medical professionals each year concerning constipation, and hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on laxatives yearly.

On the other hand, some people worry they use the bathroom too many times throughout the day.

No one frequency fits all. How often you have a bowel movement will be unique to you. 

Let’s first look at what things may be affecting the frequency of your bathroom trips.

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What Can Affect Your Poop Frequency?

In addition to what you eat, several things can affect the regularity of your bowel movements.

How hydrated you are, your level of activity, age, and several other factors all play a role.

Diet and Fiber Consumption

What you eat affects how often you have a bowel movement.

Eating too much of the following foods can cause constipation:

  • Dairy products
  • High-fat meals
  • Eggs
  • Rich desserts
  • Sugary treats

It’s good to include high-fiber foods in your diet.

High-fiber foods help move waste through the GI tract.

You may get constipated if you don’t eat enough high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Eating a balanced diet can sometimes be tricky in our fast-paced world but if you can do it, you’ll find yourself having a healthier bowel routine.

Hydration and Fluid Intake

Many people, especially older adults, don’t drink enough water and other fluids to stay hydrated.

Just like it’s hard for you to slide down a dry water slide, it’s hard for your poop to pass through intestines that are not moist.

Drinking enough water and other fluids is important for having healthy bowel movements.

How much water should you be drinking? Well, that’s different for everyone.

A good way to tell if you are drinking enough water is when your urine is odor-free and pale yellow.  

Activity Level

Being inactive can contribute to constipation.

Anytime we walk and move around, the muscles in our abdomen contract and relax, which helps our intestines do their job of moving the stool through.

Being confined to a bed or chair for long periods makes it harder for the intestines to do their job, and severe constipation can develop.

Age

Constipation can affect anyone of any age but is a common issue for older adults.

There can be several reasons for this:

  • Less physically active than when younger
  • Drinking less water
  • Poor diet balance
  • Medications they may be taking
  • Certain health conditions 
  • Overuse of laxatives

Illnesses

Certain medical conditions and illnesses can affect your bowel patterns.

Neurological problems like stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease can all disrupt some nerves and muscles that affect your digestive tract.

This can lead to the intestines having trouble moving stool.

Endocrine disorders like diabetes and problems with your thyroid can also disrupt your normal bowel movements.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder of the intestines. Its symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

Surgeries are known to result in constipation for a few different reasons. 

One reason is the pain medications and anesthesia that are given.

Another reason is being inactive due to the surgery. 

If surgery is performed on the abdomen, the risk for constipation increases significantly. There is also a risk of constipation in the future due to the surgery.

Medications

Many medications can completely disrupt your poop patterns.

The following medications can make you constipated:

Most people think of laxatives as a way to cure constipation.

This can be true for short-term treatment; however, if you take laxatives too often or for too long, your body forgets how to have a normal bowel movement.

The same goes for enemas (methods used to stimulate stool evacuation).

They are great for a quick fix on a rare occasion, but frequent use can lead to your body depending on them to have a bowel movement. 

Hormonal Changes 

Although the connection is not quite clear, a study showed that 73% of healthy people with vaginas reported changes in their bowel movement patterns right before and during their periods.  

The changes could be attributed to hormonal changes; however, the participants also reported different emotional stressors that could have influenced their bowel movements as well.

When to Be Concerned

The main time to be concerned is when there is a sudden unexplained change in your bowel movements.

It may be caused by something simple such as what you ate, but if the problem persists or if other symptoms accompany it, it’s time to let your medical provider know.

Below is a list of symptoms of when you need to seek medical care. 

Size

There is no “one size fits all” for poop.

The size of your poop will depend on your body and how much you eat. It should not be so large that it is uncomfortable to pass. 

As a general rule of thumb, a stool that’s size does not easily fit into the toilet’s opening is considered too large. 

Shape

The shape of your poop should be long, and sausage-like with smooth edges.

Hard pebbles or firm lumpy poop may mean constipation.

Fluffy soft poop with no definition is not solid enough. Liquid poop typically indicates diarrhea.

Firmness or consistency

Your poop should retain its shape but not be solid or completely liquid either. Stools that float in the water or are greasy in appearance require medical attention. 

Color

Healthy poop is tawny in color (orange-brown or yellow-brown).

However, the foods you eat can affect the color of your poop. Beets, for example, can make your poop maroon.

Anytime there is a sudden color change, think back on what you recently ate.

Any blood in the stool is abnormal and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. 

Black tarry stools are a medical problem that requires urgent attention.

Black stools can mean you have some bleeding in your digestive tract. Be sure to call your medical provider right away.   

How long it takes

Sitting down to poop should not be a long endeavor. A healthy poop will let you know when it’s ready and will come right out without much straining.

A poop that takes a long time, is difficult to push out, or feels like you didn’t empty yourself all the way is a sign of constipation. 

Smell

Your poop probably doesn’t smell all that great. However, it’s probably a smell you are accustomed to and know is normal for you.

A foul-smelling stool with an unfamiliar smell could be caused by the food you ate or could be a sign of something else going on in your digestive system.

It’s something to take note of, and if it persists or more problems come up, let your doctor know about it.

An especially foul-smelling odor is also concerning.

Other Considerations

Now let’s talk about how to know if your poop is a healthy one.

The bristol stool chart was developed by a doctor for how to assess poop. You can use this chart to identify what type of you poop you have.

Concerned about you bowel movements? Chat with a medical provider through K Health.
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When to See a Healthcare Professional 

Here are some signs that you should see your medical provider right away:

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should a healthy person poop?
Healthy poop patterns range from a couple of times a day to a few times a week. What’s normal for you may not be normal for another person. What you should be looking for is a consistent pattern in your bowel movement and stools that are not hard to pass. You should also look for signs of a healthy poop such as usual smell, long and smooth consistency, normal color, and poop that is not difficult to push out.
Is it normal to only poop once a week?
Once a week is probably not enough pooping. Typically, people should poop at least a few times a week. It is a good idea to have a medical evaluation to ensure there is not something else going on.
Are you supposed to poop every day?
Some people poop every single day and right on time too. However, some people only poop a few times a week. It all depends on what your normal is. If you feel like you have healthy bowel movements once a day or only three times a week is great for you. The most important thing is to determine your normal pattern and watch for any changes.
Is it OK to poop 5 times a day?
Five times a day may be too much. Typically, people’s pooping frequency ranges between a couple of times a day and a few times a week. Monitor your stools; do they appear to be healthy? If the number of times you poop a day is uncomfortable or if it doesn’t seem right to you, let your medical provider know.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC

Nena Luster is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 14 years of experience including emergency medicine, urgent care, and family practice.