Here's what's actually normal.

By Kate Bratskeir/HEALTH.COM
Updated Mar 07, 2019 @ 12:52 pm
Audrey Shtecinjo/Stocksy

This article originally appeared on Health. For more stories like it, visit health.com.

Everybody poops. It's a vital biological function that rids the body of bacteria, fiber, cells, water, and indigestible plant matter (see: corn poops). But while everybody does it, we don’t all do it with the same frequency. While some may have a meeting with the bathroom every morning at the exact same time, others may have poop schedules that are less predictable.

So how often should you poop? Jean Marie Houghton, MD, who practices gastroenterology with UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester, Massachusetts, tells Health the “average” frequency is between three times a day and every three days—“and everything in between!” Dr. Houghton says that most people have their routine pretty well established, “and although it may vary over time and with activity or diet, it is pretty predictable.”

She stresses that if you feel good, your “ideal” poop frequency is probably right on track. Her rule of thumb: Don’t get too hung up on the number. “If you go three times a day and feel great—perfect!” she says. However, if you’re going that often and feel bloated, uncomfortable, or an urgent need to poop, this isn’t normal, and should be addressed with a medical professional. And if you're pooping more than three times a day but that's pretty usual for you, you’re probably just fine, but make sure your doctor agrees just to be safe, Dr. Houghton suggests.

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What if your regular poop routine changes?

You may experience a change in schedule for a variety of reasons. Dr. Houghton says hormone changes—think: during your period, during pregnancy, or around menopause—can affect your poop cadence. And as you age, things tend to slow down in general, which also might be true for your number of bathroom breaks, she says.

Changes in your diet could also be making your poops unpredictable or uncomfortable. To get more regular, Dr. Houghton suggests avoiding processed foods and loading up on natural sources of fiber—foods like beans, nuts and seeds, and veggies. Staying hydrated with water and getting plenty of exercise should also help move things along.

However, if you're suddenly pooping more or less than usual, it's worth a check-in with your doctor, Dr. Houghton says.

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Signs your poop is trying to tell you something

We can learn a lot about our health through our poop, no matter how often we go number two. There are a handful of warning signs to be mindful of when you spot them. Get checked out if you ever see blood in your stool; experience a significant change in size, color, or frequency in your poops; or if you feel pain while pooping, Dr. Houghton says. And if you have a family history of GI diseases, it’s always wise to share this information with your doctor.