Officially a 7x published author with countless blog posts on the most salient nutrition topics of our time, I finally confront my biggest literary challenge.
Today’s post will take you on a journey to a more robust understanding of how often you should strive to defecate.
How Often Do Most People Poop?
Let me start by taking it way back to a study out of the aptly named Gut journal from 1992
The study made some interesting observations:
i. Once daily was the most commonly identified pattern – but less than half of people go once a day
ii. Less than 10% of people went 2+ times per day
iii. Most people go early in the day
So from this particular study we learn that while there are patterns present, there is also quite a bit of variety in bowel movement frequency.
Let’s now jump to a 2010 study out of the Scandinavian Journal Of Gastroenterology
This particular study found that:
i. Nearly 100% of people pooped between 3 times per day and 3 times per week
ii. 3 in 4 poops were considered “normal” – not too hard, not too loose
iii. Urgent, strained or incomplete poops were reported in close to 50% of people
A 2010 study from the Singapore Medical Journal actually supported both the claims from the first study I cited that that going once a day was most common AND from the second study I cited that most people poop between 3 times a day and 3 times per week.
So now that we have aptly addressed the question of how often most people poop, we must proceed to determine if the people on the more frequent end of the spectrum have advantages ( beyond the obvious, duh!) over people from the least frequent end of the spectrum.
Let’s take a look at some of the observational evidence in this category.
Poop Frequency & Health Outcomes
Keep in mind that the associations that I present in this section are purely observational and suggest correlation rather than causation.
Despite variance from person to person, I think it’s fair to say that regularity in bowel movements are on some level indicative of a strong dietary pattern and good GI health.
With that in mind, infrequent bowel movements have been identified as being correlated with an increased risk of a number of health conditions.
A 2011 paper from the American Journal Of Epidemiology found, for example, that populations with less frequent bowel movements were at higher risk of Parkinson’s disease.
A 2016 paper out of Atherosclerosis found that, in a Japanese population, lower poop frequency was associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
When exploring potential explanations for this association, I discovered a 2016 paper which suggest that constipation may increase oxidative stress on the body and thus contribute to an increased risk of death and disease.
Although digestive health is more complicated in some than it is for others, and can’t always be boiled down to just eat more fibre, an adequate fibre intake is generally effective at increasing bowel movement frequency.
That also offers a partial explanation as to why both vegans and vegetarians tend to go to the washroom more often.
And so while I cannot tell you how many times a day YOU personally should be pooping, if you fall well outside the normal ranges discussed in today’s article you may want to consider speaking with a dietitian or healthcare provider.
Poop Numbers Aren’t Right? Psyllium Fibre May Help
Psyllium fibre, sourced from the seeds of the Plantago ovata herb, is a verifiable super supplement that has been used effectively in the management of both diarrhea and constipation.
So much so that is even recommended by the Canadian Association Of Gastroenterology for the dietary management of IBS.
In the course of my research for my latest book, The 5 Ingredient Acid Reflux Cookbook, I also discovered a pair of studies published in the last several years that demonstrate psyllium supplementation may also be effective at reducing GERD/acid reflux symptoms ( 1, 2).
It’s not unusual for digestive health issues like constipation and acid reflux to overlap, and so the value of this particular supplement for the right individual could be quite high.
I highly recommend you read my articles on both of those topics ( by clicking through the hyperlinks) if you are genuinely interested in the world of gut health.
A low fibre intake will increase your risk of infrequent and challenging bowel movements and could compromise your cardiovascular health in the long term.
My new book, the 5-Ingredient Heart Healthy Cookbook, is a great way to ease into a higher fibre style of eating.
Thanks so much for your support everyone!
Until your next poop,
Andy De Santis RD MPH