How often should you poop? And what can it tell you about your gut health?

May 22, 2021

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 on how often you should poop.

How often should you poop?

  • Pooping anywhere between three times a day and three times a week is normal
  • The time it takes for food to travel through your digestive system (gut transit time) also varies widely and is an important indicator of gut health
  • Many different factors can influence how often you poop, including your diet, how much water you drink, stress levels, and more
  • One of the most important things to consider is that if something seems abnormal for you, you should go to see your doctor to get it checked out. 

How often should you poop? 

The basic rule is ‘three and three’. Studies have shown that we tend to poop between three times a day and three times a week, so anything within that range is considered healthy. 

Pooping less often could be due to constipation, while more frequent visits might indicate diarrhea, either of which could be signs of poor gut health.

As a simple gut health check, keep track of your regular pooping habits and get to know what’s normal for you.

Take a look at our handy guide to what healthy poop should look and feel like to see how yours compare.

However often you go poop, it should be during the day. If you find yourself having to get up at night to poop, you should talk to your doctor.

What affects how often you poop?

Your pooping routine can vary depending on your diet, hydration, exercise, stress levels, and more.

Generally, the more plant fiber you have in your diet, from sources 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 stay hydrated 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 (IBS). You should talk to your doctor if you’re regularly experiencing diarrhea or needing to poop very suddenly, or if you’re experiencing a lot of cramps, bloating, and gas after eating.

Food poisoning and other illnesses can affect how often you poop in the short term. 

We know that there is a close connection between your gut and your mind. So it’s not surprising that stress and anxiety can also have an impact on your gut, triggering constipation, diarrhea, and feeling sick (nausea).

Gut transit time and pooping frequency

The time it takes for food to travel through your digestive system - known as gut transit time - is another useful measure of gut health.

You can easily measure your gut transit time by eating distinctively colored food, like blue muffins or beets, and seeing how long it takes to show up in your poop.

Results from our PREDICT study suggest that gut transit times vary widely, ranging from less than 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 be constipated. Shorter transit times were generally associated with better health, less visceral fat, and healthier responses to food. 

Our research also revealed that gut transit time is also affected by the trillions of bugs that live in your gut, known as your gut microbiome.

There was also a distinct difference in gut microbiome composition between those who have a shorter transit time and a longer transit time. 

However, it’s not all about speed. People with the very fastest transit times, indicating diarrhea, tended to have a less healthy gut microbiome.

Should you worry if your pooping habits change?

The key message is that if something seems abnormal 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, such as a change in diet.

You should also go to the doctor if you see any blood in your poop, in the toilet pan, or on the paper after wiping, or if you experience pain while pooping.

This is often due to piles (hemorrhoids), which are uncomfortable but harmless, but it could be a sign of something more serious such as colorectal cancer. 

The earlier colorectal cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of survival, so it’s vital to get along to the doctor if something doesn’t seem right.

Here are some of our top tips for a healthier gut:

  • Eat more whole plant-based foods. All that fiber can encourage healthy gut microbiome diversity, get your digestive system moving and keep you pooping regularly.
  • Drink more water. Being dehydrated is one of the main causes of constipation, so make sure you’re topping up your fluids to keep everything moving smoothly.
  • Eat for your unique biology and gut. Our ZOE at-home test reveals the unique mix of “good” and “bad” microbes living in your gut, as well as insights into your unique metabolism and personalized food recommendations to support better gut health.

Want to learn more about your unique microbiome and discover your responses to food?

Join the ZOE Program today and start your journey towards a healthier gut. 

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