How often should you poop? And what can it tell you about your gut health?
Some say that pooping every day is a sign of good gut health, but is this true?
People of different ages, genders, and lifestyles all have wonderfully diverse pooping habits. Take a seat — here’s what the science says about how often you should poop.
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How often should you poop?
It's healthy to poop between three times a day and three times a week.
Many factors can influence how often you poop, including your diet, how much water you drink, and your stress levels, among others.
If something seems unusual for you, it’s important to see a doctor and get it checked out.
Studies have shown that we tend to poop between three times a day and three times a week.
If you poop less often, it might be constipation. More frequent visits might indicate diarrhea, particularly if your poop has a watery consistency.
Constipation and diarrhea can each signal poor gut health, but they don’t always.
As a simple gut health check, keep track of your regular pooping habits and get to know what’s normal for you.
You can also take a look at our handy guide to what healthy poop should look and feel like to see how yours compare.
However often you poop, it should be during the day. If you have to get up at night to poop, you should talk to a doctor.
What affects how often you poop?
Your pooping routine can vary depending on your diet, hydration, levels of exercise and stress, and other factors.
Generally, the more plant fiber you eat — from things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds — the more regularly and often you’ll poop.
Your poop reabsorbs water as it passes through your gut. Being dehydrated can lead to constipation and less frequent pooping, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids to keep everything moving smoothly.
Food allergies and intolerances can cause frequent pooping, diarrhea, bloating, and gas, as well as conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
You should talk to your doctor if you regularly have diarrhea or need to poop very suddenly, or if you experience a lot of cramps, bloating, and gas after eating.
In the short term, food poisoning and other illnesses can also affect how often you poop.
And research has confirmed a close connection between your gut and your mind. So it’s not surprising that stress and anxiety can affect your gut — triggering constipation, diarrhea, and nausea.
Gut transit time and pooping frequency
Your gut transit time — how long it takes for food to travel through your digestive system — is another useful measure of gut health.
You can easily test your gut transit time by eating distinctively colored foods, like blue muffins or beets, and checking when the color shows up in your poop.
Results from our PREDICT study suggest that gut transit times vary widely, from under 12 hours to many days, with a typical time of around 29 hours.
We found that the longer a person’s gut transit time, the less often they pooped and the more likely they were to have constipation. Shorter transit times were generally linked with better health, healthier responses to food, and less visceral fat, which sits deep within the belly.
In addition, our study showed that the trillions of bugs that live in your gut, known as your gut microbiome, can also affect your gut transit time.
The researchers found a distinct difference in the makeup of the gut microbiomes of people with shorter transit times, compared with those who had longer transit times.
But it’s not all about speed. People with the fastest transit times — which could be a sign of diarrhea, especially if the poop is watery — tended to have less healthy gut microbiomes.
Should you worry if your pooping habits change?
Overall, if something seems off for you, you should get it checked out.
For example, if your pooping frequency or the appearance of your poop changes without an obvious explanation, like a change in your diet, let a doctor know.
Also, contact a doctor if you see any blood in your poop, in the toilet, or on the paper after wiping.
And let a doctor know if you have pain while pooping. The pain may stem from hemorrhoids, also called piles, which are uncomfortable but harmless.
Sometimes, though, pain is a symptom of a serious condition, such as colorectal cancer. The earlier a person receives a diagnosis, the better the chances of survival.
The bottom line is: It’s important to go to the doctor if something doesn’t seem right.
Some top tips for a healthier gut
For anyone looking to improve their gut health, a good place to start is to eat more whole, plant-based foods. All that plant fiber can encourage healthy gut microbiome diversity, get your digestive system moving, and keep you pooping regularly.
Another tip is to drink more water and other hydrating fluids like coffee, tea, and dairy or plant-based milks.
Being dehydrated is one of the main causes of constipation, so make sure you’re topping up your fluids to keep everything moving smoothly.
Our ZOE at-home test reveals the unique mix of “good” and “bad” microbes living in your gut. We can then offer you insights into your unique metabolism, as well as personalized food recommendations to support your gut health.
Characterizing normal bowel frequency and consistency in a representative sample of adults in the United States (NHANES). The American Journal of Gastroenterology. (2018). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28762379/
How to reduce visceral body fat (hidden fat). (2021). https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-to-reduce-visceral-body-fat-hidden-fat
Survival rates for colorectal cancer. (2022). https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html