How Often Should You Poop & Is It Every Day? Here's What Doctors Say

It's important to know what's definitely *not* normal so you can seek help and get your GI tract back on track.

It's time to talk sh*t. No, we're not referring to gossiping about the drama on the latest episode of a Bravo reality show; we're talking about poop. Stool. Feces. Whatever you want to call it, and as awkward as it can feel to talk about it, we should be doing so a lot more, suggests Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., a Charleston, South Carolina-based gastroenterologist and the author of The Fiber Fueled Cookbook.

"Pooping is somewhat of a taboo topic, but everyone does it, and it's extremely important to our health," Bulsiewicz says. He says how often you poop is related to bowel transit time or how long what you eat stays inside you. Bulsiewicz points out that transit time is linked to gut microbiome changes, citing a 2021 study published in the journal Gut.

Poop is also linked to heart health; in fact, people who pooped fewer than three times per week had a greater risk of heart disease, heart attacks and stroke, according to a 2020 study in BMJ Open. That's why it's important to share science-backed insights to help you know what's normal—and what's not—when it comes to your stool. Read on and study up so you can separate what's healthy from what's off-track.

Alarm clock with poop emojis on it
Getty Images

What Does "Normal" Mean?

Normal poop, called "stool" by medical professionals, is brown, well-formed, sausage-shaped, uniform and thick. It should feel fairly easy—or not like too much of a struggle—to pass. Most people poop once or twice each day, and the most common time of day is either at waking up or after breakfast, Bulsiewicz says.

The frequency and time of day of pooping can vary with normal stool, confirms William W. Li, M.D., an internal medicine physician and scientist in Boston and the author of Eat to Beat Your Diet. Our guts are like our fingerprints—unique to the individual—so the best course of action is to become familiar with your routine and notice when you stray from it.

"The most important thing is that you don't have discomfort. If you're not having regular bowel movements or feeling fully evacuated after going to the bathroom, you may be experiencing constipation," says Kenneth Brown, M.D., a gastroenterologist in Plano, Texas, and the host of the Gut Check Project podcast.

Are you constipated? Here are the symptoms of constipation, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:

  • Fewer than three bowel movements per week
  • Hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass
  • Feeling like there's more stool you'd like to eliminate, but can't

While it can be short-term and relieved by the lifestyle adjustments noted below, constipation can also become a chronic challenge. In that case, it's not just uncomfortable with bloating and abdominal pain, but constipation can also be detrimental to your health, Brown says.

According to Stanford Medicine Health Care, the potential complications of chronic constipation include:

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anal fissure, or a small tear in the anus
  • Fecal impaction; in other words, a hard, dry stool that cannot be passed
  • Rectal prolapse (when the large intestine pushes out of the rectum)

"It's perfectly normal not to have a bowel movement every single day. But if more than several days have gone by without a bowel movement, especially if you have discomfort or any swelling or pain in your lower abdomen, it's important to seek medical attention to evaluate if there is an obstruction blocking normal bowel movements," Li says.

On the flip side, pooping more than three times per day, having chronic diarrhea, urgency or waking up at night to poop are all examples of diarrhea-related issues that are worth chatting about with your doctor, Bulsiewicz says.

Factors That Affect How Often You Poop

How often you poop is personal. You may poop more or less often than the next person due to:

Your Genetics

You may be able to (partly) blame your poop frequency on your parents. Research suggests that there are genetic factors that affect stool consistency and frequency, according to research in Cell Genomics in 2021. Genetics may also influence your gut microbiome.

Your Microbiome

Your microbiome affects many responses in your body, including your BMs. For example, an imbalance of gut bacteria, called dysbiosis, may contribute to chronic constipation, according to 2019 research in Frontiers in Medicine.

Your Age

About one-third of all American adults over 60 have symptoms of constipation, according to the NIDDK.

Your Lifestyle

What you've eaten in the past few meals, the amount of fiber you're consuming, and your hydration levels impact how much and how often you poop, Li says.

Health Conditions

Many underlying medical conditions can affect your bowel habits, including digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as other medical problems like thyroid disease.


Certain medications can cause constipation or diarrhea as a side effect. For instance, NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen), metformin (for diabetes), heartburn medication and chemotherapy drugs can all trigger diarrhea, per the National Library of Medicine.

3 Ways to Stay Regular

To hit the sweet spot of around one poop per day, or to fall into a steady stool routine that feels good for your gut, try these gastroenterologist-recommended strategies:

  • Eat a Fiber-Rich Diet: Bulsiewicz likes to compare fiber to "a canoe that floats your poop through your intestines." A well-balanced diet with fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans and legumes can help promote regular bowel movements. Insufficient fiber intake can lead to constipation or irregular bowel movements. Add high-fiber foods to your next supermarket list to make hitting your 28- to 34-gram-per-day fiber goal easier.
  • Stay Hydrated: In that same boat reference, Bulsiewicz says that H2O helps "float the poo canoe down the river. When you don't drink enough water, your canoe will get stuck on the rocks," he says. Since normal poop is 74% water, per an October 2021 study in Nutrients, water intake can make a big difference in the texture of your stool—and how easy it is to pass. You can tell that you're hydrating enough by looking at your urine. It should be pale yellow (similar to lemonade) or lighter. If it's darker and more like apple juice, drink up.
  • Move Your Body: Regular exercise can help stimulate the muscles in the digestive tract and promote regular bowel movements. "It helps the canoe move briskly downstream instead of lingering too long," Bulsiewicz says. (No wonder many doctors deem physical activity the top activity to help you poop.) Aim for—or work up to—150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week, plus two total-body resistance training sessions. Yes, walking counts as a workout!

When to See a Health Care Provider

The "red flag symptoms" related to digestion, listed below, may indicate a potentially serious underlying condition and warrant prompt medical attention to determine the underlying cause and to receive appropriate treatment, says Bulsiewicz.

  • Persistent abdominal pain: "Severe, worsening or constant abdominal pain that lasts for several hours or days may be a sign of a serious issue, such as appendicitis, a bowel obstruction or an inflamed gallbladder," Bulsiewicz says.
  • Unexplained weight loss: Dropping pounds without making any major changes to your diet or exercise routines? Bulsiewicz explains that this could be indicative of a digestive disorder, such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease or even cancer.
  • Difficulty swallowing: If you consistently have trouble swallowing or experience pain when swallowing, this could signal an injury or illness within your esophagus.
  • Black, tarry stools or bloody stools: This may be a sign that there's bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, which could be caused by ulcers, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids or cancer, Bulsiewicz says.
  • Repeated pencil-thin stools: If stools are regularly extremely thin, this may point to growths (including cancerous tumors) in your colon that prevent stools from shaping normally.
  • Jaundice. Yellowing of the skin and eyes can indicate liver disease or bile duct obstruction.
  • Persistent, unexplained digestive symptoms: Whether it's diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, acid reflux or heartburn, even if mild, "when there's a change and it's persistent, then it's worthwhile to figure out what's going on and make sure it's nothing too serious," Bulsiewicz says.
  • Unexplained fatigue or weakness: This could be a sign of anemia, which might be caused by gastrointestinal bleeding, celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to poop out food?

Food takes about six to eight hours to work through your stomach and small intestine, then about another one-and-a-half days to go through your large intestine for additional digestion. In total, and on average, it takes about two to five days for something you eat to make its way through your digestive system and be eliminated through your stool.

How much should you poop in a day?

Again, this varies by the individual. There's no set amount of times or overall quantity of stool that's "best" for everyone, but if you're pooping once per day to once every three days and feel like you're able to pass all of the stool that your body is ready to eliminate, you're within the "normal" range.

How long can you go without pooping?

If you haven't pooped in a couple of days and that's normal for you, it's OK. It's still considered "normal" to poop three times a week, which means you will not go every day.

Is it normal to poop once a week?

If you have fewer than three bowel movements per week, you qualify as having constipation. Most important is that you watch for any stark changes in your stool patterns. If you're experiencing any of the symptoms listed above in "When to See a Health Care Provider," consult with your doctor.

How often should a healthy person poop?

What's "healthy" or "normal" differs depending on your genetics and lifestyle. A healthy frequency can range from three times per day in one person to three times a week in another.

The Bottom Line

There's no one "perfect" cadence for pooping, but the average healthy person poops about once or twice per day, according to gastroenterologists. If you go for more than three days without a bowel movement, you meet the criteria of having constipation. Pay attention to what's standard for your stools, and watch for any of the red flag symptoms that might be a sign of an underlying illness, gut-related or otherwise.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles