Am I normal? (poop filter)
June 5, 2013 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Alternating between frequent bowel movements and none, on a one- to two- day cycle - is this normal?

I tend to fluctuate between 1 or 2 days of feeling constipated with no bowel movements, and 1 or 2 days of slightly loose stools and going to the bathroom more than three times a day. I don't have pain or gas, but I feel uncomfortable and bloated on the days I don't have a bowel movement, and on the other days it's inconvenient to have to go to the bathroom so many times and my innards feel upset. I'm a female in my early 30s, I eat pretty healthily (omnivorous), I exercise regularly, no major health issues, no food allergies (I've been tested). I do have some trouble with anxiety and am on a low dose of thyroid medication for hypothyroidism. Is this normal or could there be some underlying problem? Is there something I can take or eat that will make me more regular?
posted by Dilemma to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A regular supplement of acidophilous or a probiotic like Align can help a lot. Fair warning that some such supplements need to be refrigerated after opening, so read the label carefully.

(I actually like the probiotic that Bayer makes.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:14 PM on June 5, 2013

There's a reason that an entire aisle of the pharmacy is devoted to fiber supplements.

A spoonful of psyllium husk is rather like gagging down a mouthful of cardboard-flavored sand, and seemingly no matter how much liquid you mix it with is there any way to improve the flavor or texture -- but it does improve... things... on the way out.
posted by ook at 12:14 PM on June 5, 2013

Go to a doctor if you're really worried. Also, take a fiber supplement that's Psyllium Husk.
posted by royalsong at 12:15 PM on June 5, 2013

How much fiber are you eating? I'd look at that before regularly taking a supplement.
posted by Specklet at 12:16 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Eating more fiber rich foods (beans, nuts, popcorn, raw veg etc) can help to keep you moving more smoothly. Make sure you're properly hydrated, since that can have an effect on things too. And yeah, if you need to, add some fiber more deliberately to your diet. There are lots of supplements to choose from, and lots of ways to do it. Personally I add a tablespoon of ground flax to my morning protein shakes. I also have some probiotic yoghurt every day too. I don't know if that helps, but it seems to for me.

Anyway, those will keep things moving. Just be aware that increased fiber can sometimes make a person gassier...
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:22 PM on June 5, 2013

Best answer: Tbh(and i've gotten some professional agreement on this as a general question faced to doctors/nutrionists/other health-ish people) no one eats enough fiber anymore. I went from being like you, to barely even needing toilet paper and perfectly crapping 1-2 times a day depending on how much i ate that day by just taking the cheap psyllium-based cheapass fiber stuff from safeway.

just drink like one fat spoonful in a glass a day, not the "up to 3" they suggest. Your shit will be perfect, so to speak.
posted by emptythought at 12:23 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's probably not in the "abnormal" but it sounds uncomfortable and annoying. Agree that a fiber supplement and drinking more water would help a lot. You can buy raw psyllium husk, or buy Citrucel caplets like I do. It's not a laxitive, it just helps everything move more smoothly.

It might be worthwhile to also keep a food diary for a week or so. You have to be detailed about what you eat and when, and also how you feel during points in the day and how your stool is. You might find a correlation between eating certain things and feeling bad. For example coffee makes me run to the bathroom almost immediately. Milk products (I"m definitely lactose intolerant) makes me sick but it takes a few hours.
posted by radioamy at 12:28 PM on June 5, 2013

I agree with the psyllium husk recommendations. I take mine as capsules. Also yes on hydration hydration hydration and probiotics if you continue to have problems.

When I was your age, I regulated my bowel movements with a high fiber, low sugar cold cereal eaten daily. Was it Grape Nuts? Shredded Wheat? I forget. But it was enjoyable and it did the trick without supplements.
posted by janey47 at 12:32 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Talk to your doc, but it could be IBS-A. I've personally found that fiber supplements make it worse, but taking polyethylene glycol daily helps.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:47 PM on June 5, 2013

Best answer: Fiber supplements can give you relentless and uncomfortable gas, even if you hydrate properly. You might want to try banana/plain yogurt/flax seed smoothies first.
posted by elizardbits at 12:56 PM on June 5, 2013

When my daughter was having poop issues, we were recommended Culturelle (a probiotic capsule).
posted by leahwrenn at 1:58 PM on June 5, 2013

How long has this cycle been going on? I was having really major stomach upset last year. A couple months of just sorta indigestion-bloating feelings, then it turned into major runs every few days for about a month. I thought at first I had a virus or something but it was weird that it wouldn't go away.

Turns out I was mega-constipated - the diarrhea was the only stool that could get out. I talked to my doc and they recommended a saline enema (really not as awful as it sounds) which immediately relieved the pressure. Then I started taking Citrucel and was having normal bowel movements in a day or so.
posted by radioamy at 2:16 PM on June 5, 2013

You eat healthily, but do you eat regularly? If you eat mostly low fiber foods most of the time, and then every few days chow down on, say, a big bowl of fiber cereal.... Worthwhile to keep a food diary (including liquids) and match it to a bowel movement diary.
posted by anaelith at 4:44 AM on June 6, 2013

Your hard stool causes the constipation. When it's finally passed, you've uncorked the bottle, so to speak, letting everything backed up inside of you flow out. Eventually, you dry out and/or eat something to cause a hard stool, and the cycle repeats. I found diet has a lot to do with it. Replacing hard cheese, nuts, and chewy foods (think fudge brownies) with fruit and veggies helps a lot. Also some medications may dry you up and harden your poop. Vicodin for one, also cold/allergy meds. They dry up your runny nose - and everywhere else too. I got some relief from the fiber supplements, but not as much as changing diet, and drinking extra fluids with certain medications. Pay attention to what you are consuming that might start the cycle.
posted by mama penguin at 5:50 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I used to think I had "middle age" digestive woes, mostly what you're describing, but with a dose of death-farts and occasional indigestion. All of it vanished very quickly (and made me a believer in the notion of "regularity") when I started eating a Paleo diet -- that is, cut out grains and processed sugars, added a lot more fruits/veggies, meat, and good fats. Took a while for me to get used to it (a couple of months physically and maybe 6 months to retool my convenience foods and other parts of my routine), but it's been an amazing change. Good gut flora for the win!
posted by acm at 7:46 AM on June 6, 2013

I eat several dried apricots with breakfast every day, which is enough soluble fiber to keep things moving. When I'm energetic, I make bran muffins for the non-soluble fiber. Water and exercise also help a lot. Soluble and non-soluble fiber, exercise and adequate fluids are all part of adequate nutrition and healthy living, so finding a way to build them into your life is a good thing.
posted by theora55 at 9:16 AM on June 6, 2013

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