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The infamous children’s book “Everyone Poops” is a classic for a reason — it states the facts! Everyone does poop, and it’s normal and healthy. But what happens when you’re suddenly pooping a lot in one day?
“Having bowel movements, also known as pooping, serves a crucial purpose in our bodies, because when we eat food, our digestive system breaks it into smaller particles so our bodies can absorb the food’s nutrients and energy,” says Sarah Robbins, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist, gut health expert, and the founder of Well Sunday. “However, not everything in food can be fully digested or used by our bodies, and these undigested parts, along with other waste materials like dead cells and bacteria, need to be removed from our system so they don’t build up and cause harm,” she explains.
In other words, bowel movements are a natural and essential way for our bodies to get rid of waste materials, Dr. Robbins says. “They keep our digestive system functioning properly and help us stay healthy and comfortable.”
OK, so often should you be pooping? It depends. “It really comes down to the foundation of the individual’s gut health and the foods and liquids he or she eats on a daily basis,” says Amy Lee, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician and chief medical officer at Lindora Clinic. Some people have daily bowel movements, while others may only go a few times a week, she explains.
That said, if you notice a sudden change in the frequency of your bathroom habits, it may be a sign something else is happening in your body. Curious why you’re suddenly pooping a lot in one day or whether it’s normal to poop three times a day? Here’s what experts told POPSUGAR.
Why Am I Pooping So Much?
Everyone is different, but as a general guideline, most adults poop anywhere from three times a week to three times a day, Dr. Robbins says. “Regularity and consistency are key indicators of a healthy digestive system, not necessarily the frequency of bowel movements, so if you are comfortable and your bowel movements do not cause any disruptions to your daily life, chances are your bowel habits are within the normal range for you,” she explains. However, if you’re suddenly pooping a lot in one day, the following reasons may be the culprit.
“Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by viral or bacterial infections, and it can lead to diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and frequent bowel movements,” Dr. Robbins says. Hydration is crucial in managing gastroenteritis, so be sure to drink clear fluids like water and electrolyte solutions, she explains. You should also avoid spicy, fatty, and sugary foods to help reduce symptoms, she says. If symptoms persist or worsen, it’s time to see a doctor.
If you’re eating a lot of prebiotics (dietary fiber found in foods like banana, whole-grain wheat, almonds, etc.) or probiotics (found in foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and tempeh), you may notice a sudden increase in bowel movements, Dr. Lee says. This is because there’s a flux in gut healthy bacteria and dietary fiber, which speeds along digestion and changes the bacterial colonies living in your gut, she explains. Your bowel movements should regulate over time with any dietary changes, but it’s helpful to gradually introduce these foods to your diet and drink plenty of water to help the gut adjust, Dr. Robbins says.
Emotional stress and anxiety can impact gut health and lead to increased bowel movements, Dr. Robbins says. In fact, stress activates the body’s fight-or-flight response, which may alter digestive motility, she explains. To help cope, Dr. Robbins suggests stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and regular exercise to help alleviate symptoms. Support from a mental health professional may also be beneficial.
There’s nothing fun about food poisoning, and consuming contaminated food or drinks can trigger diarrhea and increased bowel movements, Dr. Robbins says. “It’s essential to stay hydrated with clear fluids and consume bland, easily digestible foods, and if symptoms are severe, accompanied by fever, or last longer than a couple of days, consult a healthcare professional.”
Certain medications like antibiotics, laxatives, and some supplements can cause diarrhea and increased bowel movements, Dr. Robbins says. This is because some medications consist of materials that draw water into the big bowels and colon, which results in frequent pooping, Dr. Lee adds. If you recently started a new medication and experience these side effects, consult the prescribing healthcare provider to discuss possible alternatives or strategies to manage symptoms.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
“IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits,” Dr. Robbins says. Some people with IBS may also experience increased bowel movements during flare-ups, she adds. Dietary modifications, stress management, and prescription medication can provide relief, so always talk with your doctor to help manage IBS symptoms, Dr. Robbins explains.
Is It Normal to Poop 5 Times a Day?
The frequency of bowel movements can vary widely between people, and there is no universally defined “normal” number of daily bowel movements, but pooping three times or even five times a day can be normal. “Having five bowel movements per day may be above average for some individuals, but on its own, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern,” Dr. Robbins says. “What matters most is the overall picture of digestive health and whether there are accompanying symptoms or changes that raise red flags.”
“The frequency of bowel movements can depend on various factors, including diet, physical activity, gastrointestinal motility, and individual health,” she adds. For example, those who eat a lot of fiber and consume a good amount of liquids (think: two to three liters of water per day) and maintain an active lifestyle could really “keep the bowel movements moving,” Dr. Lee says.
That said, if you’re pooping five times a day and there are accompanying symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss, or signs of dehydration, this is not normal and you should see a doctor ASAP, Dr. Robbins says.
How to Stop Pooping So Much
First things first. You want to understand the cause of your sudden increase in pooping, Dr. Lee says. From there, you can determine the best course of action and the proper treatment, she explains.
That said, the following are some simple remedies to quell your bowels:
Dietary modifications: Keep a food diary to identify potential triggers and irritants in your diet, Dr. Robbins says. “Avoiding spicy, greasy, and high-fiber foods may help reduce bowel movements, and instead focus on easily digestible, bland foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, also known as the BRAT diet,” she explains. Then, gradually reintroduce other foods to identify specific triggers.
Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is crucial, but avoid excessive consumption of caffeinated or carbonated beverages, which can exacerbate bowel movements, Dr. Robbins says.
Stress management: High stress levels can impact your bowel habits, so do your best to minimize stress through relaxing practices like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing, Dr. Robbins says.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications: “OTC anti-diarrheal medications containing loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate can help alleviate frequent bowel movements,” Dr. Robbins says. However, it’s best to use these meds sparingly and always consult with a healthcare professional if symptoms persist, she adds.
Fiber intake: If you’re experiencing diarrhea, consider temporarily reducing your fiber intake, Dr. Lee says. Too much fiber too fast can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea, so be patient and start slow with fiber, she explains.
Prescription medications: If the underlying cause of your frequent bowel movements is related to a medical condition like IBS or other gastrointestinal disorders, prescription medications may be recommended by a healthcare professional to manage symptoms, Dr. Robbins explains.
Avoid avereating: Eating smaller, more frequent meals may help prevent overstimulation of the digestive system, Dr. Robbins says. Try to slow down during meals and incorporate snacks when needed.
Stay active: Regular exercise can help regulate bowel movements and promote overall gastrointestinal health, Dr. Robbins says.
When to See a Doctor About Your Pooping
If you notice blood in your poop or have a fever, discomfort, or severe abdominal cramping, you should see a doctor immediately, Dr. Lee says. If you have diarrhea and start to feel unusually tired, dizzy, confused, or extremely thirsty, that’s another reason to see a doctor, because you may be severely dehydrated, she adds.
You should also schedule a visit with your doctor if you notice a significant and unexplained change in your bowel habits for more than a few days, chronic constipation, or unexplained weight loss or if you have a family history of digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer, Dr. Robbins says. “Gastrointestinal health is vital to overall well-being, and early detection and appropriate treatment of symptoms can lead to better outcomes, so if you’re uncertain or worried about any aspect of your bowel movements or digestive health, speak with your healthcare provider.”