How Often Should You Have a Bowel Movement?

Most people do not give their bowel movements much thought. This is why it does not come as a surprise that many do not know what a “normal” bowel movement should look like and how often they should have a bowel movement. The fact of the matter is that there is no specific definition of a normal bowel movement.

There is an entire spectrum of what can be considered normal since each person’s regularity is highly individualized. Even so, there are some signs you can look out for which would tell you whether you bowel movement is in the normal range. If not, it is best you discuss it with your physician.

How Often Should You Have a Bowel Movement?

We all have digestive systems that are remarkably efficient. A few hours after eating, your bowel movement helps extract all the essential nutrients in the foods you’ve drunk and eaten, processes these nutrients to your bloodstream and then disposes off the leftovers. The leftover material is passed through the intestine for temporary storage in your colon where water is removed. The residue is now ready for excretion through the bowels, and this normally happens the same or next day.

Regularity of your bowel movement depends on a few factors like your age, daily activity and diet. The frequency could range from three times a day to three times a week. However, having bowel movements less than thrice a week may be an indication of constipation whereas passing more than three watery stools is an indication of diarrhea.

What does a Normal Bowel Movement Look Like?

Bowel movements should be soft and easy to pass, though there are some that are softer or harder than others. Generally, stool should have a golden brown or brown complexion, have a texture that is similar to that of peanut butter and have a shape and size that resembles a sausage.

There are cases where the stool might not fit this description and that should not be a cause for alarm, more so if it happens once in a while. However, if you notice sudden changes in your stool, it is wise to consult your physician.

What a Video for Tips on Having a Normal Bowel Movement:

Constipation and Diarrhea

1. Constipation

Constipation is a common problem. It is estimated to be the cause of approximately two million hospital/clinic visits annually. Constipation refers to lumpy, hard dry stool that is painful or difficult to pass and may be accompanied by discomfort and bloating. Factors that can lead to constipation include chronic dehydration and lack of adequate dietary fiber and exercise. Avoiding caffeine and drinking sufficient amounts of water daily will help you avoid dehydration. Also, having 30 minutes of exercise several times a week is important for better digestion and overall health. Fiber in your diet ensures that the stool you pass is soft and painless.

2. Diarrhea

Diarrhea refers to watery, loose stool that occurs about three times each day or more. For many adults, this condition is common and occurs several times a year and usually lasts for one or two days, and doesn’t need treatment. There are various causes of diarrhea, and they include medication side-effect, food intolerance and infection. If diarrhea lasts for more than three days and is accompanied by dehydration, severe pain and fever, it may need treatment. You will also need treatment if the diarrhea is black, contains blood or is tarry.

Click on the link for more information on tips for having regular bowel movements and the precautions you should take:

Changes in Bowel Movement and When to Worry

The term “normal” bowel movement may mean different things to different people since bowel movements vary in frequency and consistency. However, there are several ways to tell that a bowel movement is not normal, and this abnormality is usually a sign of more serious health related problems.

Changes in Bowel


What does This Mean?


Having blood in your stool is alarming, to say the least. Blood in stool could be as a result of conditions like mild hemorrhoids to serious infections or even colon cancer. Bloody stool could also be as a result of bleeding in the digestive tract (lower). Immediate medical attention is required in such an instant.

Black stool

Tarry, black stool accompanied by a foul odor can be as a result of consuming certain foods or iron supplements. It could also be as a result of having internal bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract.

Maroon or red stool

This could be a result of something benign like eating foods that have the same color. It could also be an indication of more serious conditions like diverticular bleeding, colon cancer, colon polyps, anal fissures, inflammatory bowel disease or hemorrhoids. Call a doctor if you have other uncomfortable feelings.

Green stool

This can occur as a result of eating foods that have green color, taking iron supplements or from having a decreased colonic transit time. Newborns commonly have green stool the first couple of days after birth.

Clay or pale colored stool

These types of stool could be a sign of lack of bile salt, barium after a barium enema test, antacid or hepatitis. Bile salt gives stool its brownish color.

If you have any worries about your bowel movements, seek medical attention. Many people make the mistake of keeping such concerns to themselves and this ends up being a bad decision. If you feel that your digestion process might have changed, make sure that you have brought it up in your next appointment with your doctor. It is easy to deal with digestive problems if they are detected early enough, rather than trying to treat it when it is in advanced stages.