How often should I have a bowel movement?

There's no consensus on how often a person should have a bowel movement, says Gregory Lemite, MD from John Randolph Medical Center. Learn more in this video.
Christine M. Bouchard, MD
Colorectal Surgery
There's no normal timing for bowel movements, says Christine Bouchard, MD, a colorectal surgeon at Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals. In this video, she explains how the nature of bowel movements is more important than the timing. 
Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
It's not a medical concept, but a myth that you've got to move your bowels each day to be healthy. In fact, as far back as 1909, the British physiologist Sir Arthur Hurst said it wasn't unusual to find healthy people who had a bowel movement three times a day or once every three days. Today, that's still the range that's considered "normal." But many perfectly healthy people don't even fall within this broad range. In 1813, the British physician William Heberden described a patient who "never went but once a month." He also described a patient who relieved himself 12 times a day. Both patients seemed perfectly content with their bowel habits.

The truth is that everyone experiences variations in how often they move their bowels. Menstruation, vigorous physical exercise, diet, travel, and stress can all cause temporary changes in bowel habits. Going a day without a bowel movement certainly shouldn't be considered constipation. And three movements in a day isn't necessarily diarrhea. More important than the number of bowel movements is the consistency of the stools as they pass, the effort needed to expel them, any associated symptoms, and changes in frequency.

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Digestive Health

Digestive Health

The digestive system includes all parts of the body that process food and expel waste, from your mouth to the end of your digestive tract. Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract prevent your body from effectively using the food yo...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.