ZocdocAnswersHow often should one have bowel movements?

Question

How often should one have bowel movements?

It seems like many people have bowel movements every day, but I only have them once every couple days. I'm a 22-year-old man, overweight but otherwise healthy. How often should a healthy person have a bowel movement?

Answer

The number of normal bowel movements in a week varies greatly between three and fourteen. Constipation occurs when a person has fewer bowel movements then they usually do, or experiences straining due to increased stool hardness. Constipation is most often caused by poor dietary choices and medications, but can also be due to electrolyte abnormalities, endocrine problems such as hypothyroidism. To prevent constipation, the most important thing to do is drink plenty of water and eat lots of high-fiber foods (vegetables, fruit, whole grains). If you have low fiber intake now you should increase it slowly (20g/day) to prevent stomach cramping. There are also many over the counter stool softeners and laxatives that can help with regular bowel movements. You should see your doctor if this is a significant change or If you are having abdominal discomfort, straining, blood streaked stool, change in stool caliber, or other alarming symptoms.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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