How Often Should I Be Pooping?
This may not be the most glamorous topic, but it is one of the most important. You would be surprised at the number of women who think going to the toilet once a week or once every 3 or 4 days is ok. While it might be common, it definitely should not be considered normal.
The human body is designed to excrete waste on a daily basis and having healthy bowel motions is a crucial aspect of maintaining good health. When we don’t have regular bowel movements, waste can build up in the intestines, causing discomfort, constipation and other digestive issues. A diet high in fibre and hydration are two key factors in achieving and maintaining regular bowel motions.
The average colon can hold up to 11 kilos of fecal matter. That's a lot of extra weight to carry around, so if you are only going to the toilet every few days or once a week, you will have a build up of old fecal matter rotting in your colon. This will not only make you feel sick, but it can also affect your mental health because of the close correlation between the brain and the gut.
Fibre is an essential nutrient that helps to keep the digestive system running smoothly. Soluble and non-soluble fibres are found in plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and wholegrains. Fibre helps to bulk up the stool, making it easier to pass and it also promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria, primarily short chain fatty acids.
Drinking enough water is also important for maintaining healthy bowel movements. Water helps to keep stools soft and easy to pass. When we are dehydrated, our stools can become hard and difficult to pass, leading to straining, discomfort and constipation.
Menopause is a significant transition in a woman’s life that can affect many aspects of her health, including bowel habits. Some women may experience an increase in constipation or diarrhea. This can be due to changes in estrogen levels that affect the muscles in the digestive tract. The loss of integrity in the pelvic floor can also contribute to the lack of peristalsis and therefore the lack of consistent evacuation.
There is also a potential link between chronic constipation and the development of certain diseases like colon cancer or diverticulitis as well as hormone driven cancers. This is because when the stool sits in the colon for extended periods of time, it can cause inflammation and damage to the lining of the colon and reabsorption of toxic waste which can eventually lead to chronic health issues like diabetes and heart disease also.
Daily exercise helps regulate peristalsis of the bowel by stimulating the muscles in the digestive tract, propelling the movement of stool through the intestines. Exercise also reduces stress which is a known contributor to constipation and other digestive problems. Even a moderate amount of exercise such as a daily walk in the morning and after dinner can have a positive impact on bowel habits.
The theorised perfect number of bowel motions a day should be at a minimum one and up to two or three a day following the consumption of food. The consistency should be that of a sausage like shape and mid brown colour. The Bristol Stool Chart is a great way to identify what you should aim your stool to look like. If you have consistent diarrhoea or constipation, please seek the help of a practitioner who will do more than just prescribe laxatives. They can become habit forming and weaken the natural action of the bowel.
TIPS FOR HEALTHY POOPING
- Eat a whole food diet focusing on lots of fruits and vegetables with every meal.
- Stay hydrated with water, herbal teas, fresh juices, smoothies.
- Exercise daily.
- Take a quality probiotic before bed.
- Look into supplements like magnesium, vitamin C, Liquorice and Guar Gum to get things moving.
Most people will recognise how good it feels to have a great poop. You feel immediately lighter and happier, and the goal is to feel that way every day. Have you pooped today?
Written by Mona Hecke
Mona Hecke is a degree qualified Naturopath, nutrition specialist and health and wellness writer.
With over 20 years in the health industry, beginning with a focus on children and families, and a bestselling book ‘The Lunchbox Revolution’, Mona is now empowering women through education and conversation to take action and embrace change. Gut health, mindfulness, nutrition, hormones, and menopause are the topics that women want and need to know to create their healthy future.
Mona holds certifications in Lifestyle Coaching, Kinesiology, holistic herbal medicine, and nutrition.
A recognised leader in the health industry, Mona’s strong social media presence and passion for influencing change will continue to be a catalyst for health reform for the benefit of every Australian.