It’s a question many of us wonder about, but few are brave enough to ask: How frequently should you be going “number two?”
Patricia Calhoun, MD, a family physician with Baptist Primary Care who sees patients ranging from newborns to the elderly, said there is no rule of thumb. All of our bodies are different, and so are our digestive cycles.
“Some people may go a few times a day, and others may only go a few times a week,” Dr. Calhoun said. “The biggest thing to look for is change. If you shift from going a few times a week to a few times a day, you should talk with your doctor.”
Factors such as age also influence digestive cycles. Newborns have more frequent bowel movements because they are limited to liquids like breast milk or formula. As they progress to more solid baby foods and purees, their diets remain simplistic and rich in fiber.
As we age and eat more complex and often less healthy food sources (think junk and fast food), we can have less frequent bowel movements, Dr. Calhoun said. Senior citizens may also find that being unable to exercise as frequently and taking certain medications may cause them to get backed up.
Constipation, which refers to less frequent or firmer stools, can happen at any age.
“It’s often caused by lack of fiber or fluids in the diet,” Dr. Calhoun said. “Constipation can also be the result of thyroid disease, pain medications, blood pressure medications, or supplemental iron sources.”
To stay regular, Dr. Calhoun recommends:
- Eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber.
- Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water.
- Monitoring your bowel movements for any changes, especially when you start a new medication or vitamin.
If you’ve experienced a change in your bowel movements, a visit to your primary care physician is a good place to start. To find the right one for you, call 202.4YOU, click here to fill out an appointment request form.