ZocdocAnswersWhat causes infrequent bowel movements?

Question

What causes infrequent bowel movements?

What causes a person to have infrequent bowel movements? Sometimes I don't need to have a bowel movement for three days at a time which definitely seems like not enough, or at least not the normal frequency that people have them at. Am I doing something wrong?

Answer

Almost everyone becomes constipated at some time during their life. Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less frequent or it becomes difficult to pass stool. Although the length of time between bowel movements varies widely from person to person, most doctors consider a time period of more than 3 days abnormal. The most common pattern is to have one bowel movement a day, which is the case for 50% of people. Constipation is characterized by straining during a bowel movement, having hard stools, sometimes having incomplete evacuation, and having two or fewer bowel movements in a week. There is no medical reason to need to have a bowel movement daily. Common causes of constipation include inadequate amounts of water, fiber and exercise, stress, large amounts of dairy products, and certain medications. A much less common, but more concerning, cause of constipation is colon cancer so it is important to make sure you have had a screening colonoscopy if you are 50 or older. Easy ways to improve constipation include drinking more water (at least 8 cups daily), slowly increase fiber in your diet, and get more exercise. The causes for constipation are numerous and therefore it is important for you to see your primary care provider to discuss your concerns and have a full evaluation.

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

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