Everybody poops…
September 26, 2010 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Should I be concerned at the (in)frequency of my bowel movements?

I can often go for a week or more without pooping and i have started wondering if this is abnormal and/or unhealthy because it seems like people should go more regularly and/or more often than that. This has pretty much been the case my whole life (I am a 37 year old woman). When I do have a bowel movement, everything is fine.

I eat pretty healthily (although I could stand to eat a bit more fruits and veggies) and am at a healthy weight for my height. I exercise fairly regularly (3-6 mile runs followed by weights) a few times a week and notice that when I exercise for more than 4-5 times a week, then I tend to poop more often, but still only every several days. Should I be worried?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm no doctor, but my instinct is that if it's been this way your whole life, it's normal for you and nothing to worry about. It's more when there's a sudden change in your body's standard operating procedure that you should question it.
posted by amro at 12:32 PM on September 26, 2010

I'm the same way. I don't know if it's good or bad, but you're not alone. If that helps any.
posted by ctmf at 12:37 PM on September 26, 2010

I just had a talk with a friend about this. She's not by nature a frequent pooper either, and didn't seem to have any problems, but as an experiment, she started drinking a half-dose of Metamucil in a glass of water every morning. She said her regularity increased and she felt great.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:43 PM on September 26, 2010

My son (he's 4) is a once-every-six-days pooper. Like clockwork. We've asked a number of doctors about this, and they've all said the same thing: some people are just like this and he'll probably be this way his whole life.

You're fine. Talk to your doctor if you want, but you're fine.
posted by anastasiav at 12:47 PM on September 26, 2010

I'm not a doctor, but I suggest you boost your fiber, esp. if you're concerned. If your bms are rock hard when you have one, then I suggest you do. They make good tasting fiber bars with a ridiculously high amount of fiber in them. Also, since it's autumn, apples are in season. I recommend Honeycrisps. That old "apple a day" thing isn't just a wive's tale.
posted by crunchland at 12:49 PM on September 26, 2010

I wouldn't be worried but, having been in a similar boat a few years ago, I started eating a bowl of bran flakes each morning and the change in frequency was almost instantaneous and did make me feel better.
posted by gsh at 12:51 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you'd said you get plenty of fiber and are still this way, I'd say you should just figure it's your body clock and not worry about it. But since you just say more generally, "I eat pretty healthily (although I could stand to eat a bit more fruits and veggies)," why not try keeping track of your fiber intake, making sure it's within recommended amounts, and see what happens?
posted by palliser at 12:54 PM on September 26, 2010

I had intestinal surgery. I was told it is ok and "normal" to go 2-3 days with out pooping. But any longer is a problem. Fruit, veggies, and water are your friends.
posted by fifilaru at 1:45 PM on September 26, 2010

my whole life i've been a week or more usually between pooping. it wasn't a problem for a long time, then suddenly a couple years ago it became painful and awful. i get enough water, i get enough fiber. i went to the doc recently and we talked about it and when he asked about frequency and i said "every 5-10 days", his eyebrows raised and said "well, that's probably too long" (my doctor is hilarious and dry and understated).

so, yeah, it's probably not a problem, but if you can drink more water or eat more fiber to close the gap to 2-4 days, you'd probably be better for it.
posted by nadawi at 2:07 PM on September 26, 2010

My father was like this, too. Once a week, he would make a big deal out of going to the bathroom with a newspaper, a cup of tea, and an ashtray, and stay in there for about an hour. That was his weekly poop!

When I was growing up and eating really bad processed foods, I would rarely poop more than twice a week, sometimes less. I never drank water during the day.

Now I eat lots of fruit and vegetables and I can sometimes go twice a day. My doctor told me that it doesn't matter how regular (or irregular) you are -- it's whatever is normal for you. Just be on the lookout for things that are out of the ordinary, like blood, or pain.
posted by vickyverky at 2:35 PM on September 26, 2010

It is too long. You are most likely not eating anywhere near enough fibre and/or water.

Infrequency of bowel movement is linked to bowel cancer, colon cancer, haemorrhoids, and more. I'm not saying this to alarm you, but to highlight that not going enough has sideeffects beyond the immediate physical ones (also, interestingly, time spent doing the deed can also be an indicator of overall health. It's linked to even more things like blood pressure etc!)

The recommended intake of fruit and vegetables here in Australia is 2 serves of fruit, and 5 of vegetables (a serve is basically, an apple, a carrot, etc.). Are you eating this much fruit and vege or close to? If not, it's unlikely you're getting enough fibre.

This all said, a doctor is the best person to give you advice, not Doctor Internet.
posted by smoke at 4:03 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

In nursing school, I was told that normal is 3 times a day to 3 times a week. (Though 3 times a day seems too frequent to me!) Please do increase your fiber and maybe ask your doctor... my friend went 18 days without a BM before she sought help and ended up in the hospital with an impacted bowel.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:57 PM on September 26, 2010

From reading and experience, once a day is good.
Psyllium husk is a useful dietary supplement for those whose diet don't provide them with enough fiber.
posted by kittenstew at 8:25 PM on September 26, 2010

I think adding more fibre to your diet has a number of potential benefits at little to no risk. A quick uptake in fibre may cause some gas, but your body will quickly adjust to the new normal. Having been on medication that make extra fibre important, I recommend dried fruits or any pitted fruits and/or a fibre supplement that you can dissolve in water. Extra water is helpful.
posted by Gor-ella at 8:45 AM on September 27, 2010

Due to lots of bone fractures, my doc put me on huge doses of calcium citrate. I found that the calcium bunged me up really bad, so I started taking one psyllium fiber pill for each calcium tablet. Result: nice regularity and nice consistency. That's the great thing about fiber - if your bowels are loose, fiber firms 'em up. If your bowels are tight, it loosens 'em up.

So, more fiber. Especially if you take calcium supplements (which you probably should.) Drink lots of water, too.
posted by workerant at 11:44 AM on September 27, 2010

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