When it comes to pooping frequency, everyone is different. Some people pass stools every day while others go less frequently.
How Often Should You Poop?
There is no specific number of times a person should poop per day, however, an acceptable range.
The normal poop frequency range is 3 times a day to 3 times a week. If a person poops more than 3 times a day, doctors classify that as diarrhea, while if a person poops less than 3 times a week, that is constipation.
So, if you poop once or twice a day or every other day, you’re within the normal range, but if you poop once a week, you’re constipated.
Many people who are constipated, don’t even recognize that they are, and so don’t seek help till it becomes chronic.
Another thing to note is that everyone has a pattern. Even if you poop within the normal range (like once a day) but you notice a significant change in how often you poop or an alteration in the texture of your poop, it could be a warning sign for you to seek help.
How Long Before It’s Unsafe?
Many cases of extreme or chronic constipation often go unreported.
According to a study published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, a Chinese woman went 75 days without pooping.
The 55-year-old woman was noticed to have pain and observable swellings on her abdomen. The feces was so hard that it had blocked the passageway in her intestines, making her unable to defecate.
She eventually passed stool after many procedures and went on to make a full recovery, defecating once a day for the next two weeks.
This doesn’t mean everyone can survive that long without pooping. Some cases of constipation are really bad, they could lead to life-threatening complications after just a few days.
It is best to report to your doctor if you poop less than three times a week.
What Causes Constipation
1. Inadequate dietary fiber:
What you eat or don’t eat can affect your pooping habits. Eating meals lacking in fiber is a major reason why people get constipated.
Common sources of dietary fiber are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber adds bulk to the stool, making it larger and easier to move around in your intestines, hence preventing constipation. If your diet is devoid of fiber, you’re very likely to be constipated.
2. Inadequate water intake:
Despite its solid form, water makes up 75% of normal poop. So, not taking in enough water can make your stool a lot harder than normal and consequently difficult to move around by the muscles of your intestines.
Also, one of the functions of the large intestine is to absorb water from the digestive tract. So, if you are dehydrated, your large intestine will try to conserve water for the body’s use by absorbing any extra water from the food waste, making poop harder and difficult to pass.
3. Resisting the urge to poop:
Pooping can be voluntarily controlled. While this control is good when you have important events and meetings and don’t want to be interrupted, it can be bad if you persistently disregard the urge to poop. There are many factors that make people not want to poop, like being in an uncomfortable environment or when an unsanitary toilet is the only option available.
4. Overuse of laxatives:
Excessive use of laxatives can damage the nerves and muscles of the digestive system, leading to chronic constipation.
One common side effect of many medications is constipation. In many circumstances where the cause of constipation isn’t clear, a simple review of the medicines a person often reveals one of the medications taken as the possible culprit.
Once the medication is discontinued, the person’s poop frequency should return to normal. Examples of popular drugs that can cause constipation are:
- Iron supplements
- Antidepressants like amitriptyline
- Anticonvulsants like phenytoin
- Opioids like codeine and morphine
- Calcium supplements
6. Other Causes
Some other causes of constipation are:
- Intestinal obstruction
- Diabetes mellitus
Constipation can lead to increased pressure in the intestines which can cause several problems like a painful poop. Here are some conditions that are linked to chronic constipation:
- Fecal impaction
- Anal tears (fissures) with bloody stools
- Rectal prolapse
- Diverticular disease
It’s important to seek help early if you are passing stools less than three times every week, so you could prevent complications.
Also, because constipation is often a symptom of another disease, it can be dangerous if the underlying problem isn’t taking care of. For example, someone whose intestines are obstructed can present with constipation as a symptom, whereas the obstruction can be potentially fatal if left untreated.
Here are some important tips to prevent constipation:
- Drink plenty of water every day. Be deliberate about increasing your fluid intake and avoid being dehydrated.
- Don’t habitually suppress your urge to poop.
- Increase your dietary fiber intake by eating more fruits, vegetables, grains, and cereal.
- Increase your physical activity. Regular exercises help you poop more often and prevent constipation.
- Avoid taking laxatives unnecessarily or excessively. Use them sparingly if at all.
- Cut down on your coffee and alcohol intake, they can cause constipation.
Going a long time without pooping can lead to many unwanted complications. While there is no defined answer to how long a person can go without pooping, it is not advisable to test the limits.
You can prevent constipation and its sequelae by adding adequate fiber-containing food to your diet, drinking enough water and using medications only when very necessary.
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