People tend to ask me how often they should poop, and it’s always after some small talk (or a couple of drinks) that this topic pops up. It’s always the questions of not only how often should I poop, but how long does it take to digest a meal, and when should I see a doctor? There are a lot of interesting answers that I think might shock most people…
How long does it take to digest a meal?
This is kind of a tough question because technically, you start digesting food with the saliva in your mouth, so you start digesting immediately. As the foodstuffs goes down your digestive track, that’s where the timing changes and depends on what you have eaten and how long it takes your body to break it down. As we all know, fats take a long time to digest and slow digestion time, because it is harder for your body to break down, hence why you feel fuller after eating fatty meal. Fiber, on the other hand, both soluble and insoluble, are pretty easy for the body to pass through, and they act as a filler when you drink lots of water, and help to bulk up your poop, and empty out the colon. Fibers can be in the form of flax, oats, wheats, and other grains or fruits, vegetables, etc. So truly? For the average meal, you are looking at about 20 hours from mouth to butt.
How often should I poop?
This is, again, very person dependent. So this can vary from people who poop every couple of days to those who poop multiple times a day. What’s important is that your poop is of a normal consistency, not really loose and or frothy, without the presence of blood, or oil. And, it is also very important that your poop isn’t too hard, or that you are constipated. On average, daily is how much most people poop. Again this can be affected by what you eat: high fats will slow you down, and fiber can help to make you bulk your stool but without plenty of water you might make yourself constipated, too many fruits or veggies high in vitamin C can make you poop too much. Also, vitamins can have an effect on our colons. For example, iron can cause significant constipation.
In general what foods constipate?
Dairy, cheeses, milk(unless you’re lactose intolerant)
Fast foods (high fat)
High sugar items (baked goods)
Breads and pastas (high starch)
Meat (beef and pork)
Processed proteins (pre-made meals with any form of protein- meat, soy, etc)
What foods can cause diarrhea?
Artificial fats and sweeteners
Spicy foods/peppers (capsaicin…the spice can cause GI irritation)
Acidic foods (such as citrus fruits- highly acidic and lots of vitamin C!)
Sulfur containing foods (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, onions)
When Should I See an HCP?
If you are having lots of gas and stool, are uncomfortable, or feel lots of urgency, you should talk to your HCP. Also, the opposite is true; if you are feeling bloated and full, and you goes days between having bowel movements, you should see someone. If you mix between having diarrhea and being constipated, you should talk to your HCP as well. Your issues could be diet related or you could have an undiagnosed medical issue. And, if you ever see blood in your stool you should go to see your HCP within a day or seek medical attention, it could be a sign of something much more significant. Basically, use your best judgement, but if it seems like your colon has a different schedule than everyone else, you might want to get it looked into, you might have an issue that a diet change or medication could help.
Honestly, eating a healthy diet with a good mix of proteins, veggies, fruit, and grains paired with drinking water and getting 30 minutes (a minimum) of exercise a day is the best way to keep YOUR colon functioning properly and making sure that your body is working optimally. I know this isn’t everyone’s favorite topic to bring up with their HCP or friends, but if you have concerns, bring it up…us HCP’s talk about poop all the time, I promise we can handle it!
Yours in Good Health