Bowel Movements: What’s Normal and What’s Not?

Watch TV for a while and chances are you’ll come across several commercials for laxatives and other products that promote regularity. It really makes you wonder about what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to bowel movements. Are you worried about your bowel health? If so, you’re not alone. Understanding when you need to be concerned is important.

What’s Normal?

Most people think that only a daily bowel movement is normal. But bowel movements are actually quite an individualized thing. A bowel movement greatly depends upon diet and the amount of food eaten According to Annette Bisanz MPH, RN, from the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, a person who eats three hearty meals a day will need a daily bowel movement. However, if you eat only a third of that amount, you’ll have a bowel movement every third day.

One of the major things to be aware of is your personal pattern. Some people have several bowel movements per day, while others have several per week. But if you notice a major change in your toilet habits, it may signal that you need to monitor the situation.

Aside from frequency, you should pay attention to your stool. Stools should be fairly soft, smooth and brown or light brown in color. They should also pass easily without pain or straining.

What’s Not?

An abnormal bowel movement is considered something outside of your normal pattern. Are you going more or less frequently? What about the color, size, shape or consistency of your stools? Are they markedly different from before? If so, then there could be a potential problem. If you are over the age of 50, there is an even greater cause for concern because it could signal digestive disease or even colon cancer.

Obviously constipation and diarrhea are not normal, but they are rarely cause for alarm. Constipation occurs when stools are hard or lumpy and difficult or painful to pass. You may also experience bloating, fatigue and discomfort. Loose, watery stools that occur more than three times during the day are indicative of diarrhea. Seek medical attention when diarrhea lasts for more than a day or two.

Keeping Bowels Healthy

Keeping bowels healthy and normal isn’t difficult at all. Maintaining a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water can help—especially with constipation. Dehydration is one of the major causes of constipation because stools can’t form enough bulk to move through the intestine.

Getting adequate fiber is also important for bowel health. Most experts recommend between 20 and 35 grams of daily fiber to promote regular bowel movements. You can take a fiber supplement or better yet, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, consider adding unprocessed bran to your diet. It’s an excellent source of fiber.

Finally, pay attention to your body. Never ignore or resist the urge to go. Waiting to use the toilet can lead to constipation and upset your body’s natural rhythms.

Pay attention to your bowel health and know what’s normal for you.

Photo: Pixabay

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