While we don’t really like to talk about it, we all occasionally have problems going to the bathroom. The need to go too much, or too little, can be worrisome and embarrassing. So, how often should you pass a bowel movement?
How often you go to the bathroom depends on many different factors including:
- Daily activity levels.
In fact, a regular bathroom schedule can range from three bowel movements a day to three a week.
During healthy digestion, nutrients from the food we eat pass into the bloodstream. The leftovers travel through your intestine into your colon. From there, water is removed through the bladder and ureter in the form of urine, and the waste is passed through your bowels as stool within a day or two.
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Constipation and Bowel Movements
If you feel like you are not going to the bathroom enough, you may be constipated. Constipation happens when you have fewer than three bowel movements a week.
Fecal matter hardens while it sits in the colon. If you are having bowel movements where your stool is hard, dry, small, and painful to pass, you may be suffering from constipation.
RELATED: Home Remedies for Constipation Relief
There are steps you can take to relieve constipation. Start by adjusting your diet to include foods that are high in fiber, which make you feel fuller longer and help you have more regular bowel movements. High-fiber foods include:
- Whole-grain breads and cereals.
Another way to relieve constipation is to drink more fluids: Stick to water and avoid drinks that are high in caffeine, such as soda, coffee, and tea.
Diarrhea and Bowel Movements
Unlike constipation, diarrhea happens when you go to the bathroom too often. This happens when you have more than three or four bowel movements a day and your stool is loose and watery. Other symptoms of diarrhea include:
- Belly pain
If you have diarrhea, it is very important to stay hydrated. You should also avoid foods that are fatty, greasy, and high in fiber.
When to See a Doctor About Bowel Movements
Again, it is perfectly normal to have irregular bowel movements every once in a while. If your bathroom schedule continues to be a problem, you may need to get help. Speak to your doctor if:
- You are constipated for more than three weeks.
- You have diarrhea for more than two days.
If you suffer from severe pain or blood in your stool, you should speak to your doctor immediately. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask questions. If left untreated, both constipation and diarrhea can cause serious health concerns.
Learn more by visiting the UPMC Digestive Health Care website.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
About Digestive Disorders
UPMC Digestive Health Care cares for a wide range of gastrointestinal (GI) conditions and diseases, from diagnosis to treatment. Whether your digestive condition is common or complicated, our experts can help. Upon referral from your physician, we coordinate your testing and treatment. If you have a complicated condition, we can refer you to one of UPMC’s digestive health centers of excellence. Find a GI doctor near you.