WARNING ALERT! If you are eating, stop reading because we will talk about bowel movements. We all pass them, but some of us more than others, which got us wondering what’s normal. I have a long term constipation issue, and was advised to modify my eating habits. Following this suggestion has helped ~ immensely! So, how often should you poop?

There’s a range of what’s considered normal here—some people poop multiple times a day, and some three or so times a week. The key is that your bowel movements are consistent and regular. If you reliably empty your bowels every other day, you’re doing fine; the same goes for folks who go twice a day.

Doctors say that “on average, two to three soft bowel movements per day is best,” so if you’re striving to be on top of your poop game, that’s the goal. What are some factors that affect how frequently (or infrequently) you poop?

1. Diet – Experts tell us that a high-fiber diet is key to more consistent bowel movements, while meats and processed foods are likely to slow down your poop cycle and, in some cases, can even cause full-blown constipation.

2. Sleep – A regular sleep cycle of 7 to 8 hours for adults will keep bowel peristalsis regular by lowering stress levels, which lowers the amount of cortisol your body produces. If sleep deprivation is contributing to unhealthy stress, you might experience constipation or diarrhea.

3. Stress – Stress can influence your eating habits as well as directly impact your gut health, so maintaining low stress levels is important for normal gut function and peristalsis.

4. Gut microbiome – The billions of bacteria that live in our gut play a huge role in how we metabolize food and how we form stool. A diversified gut microbiome leads to healthier, more regular bowel movements.

So how can we maintain a regular poop cycle? Here is a summary of actionable lifestyle changes you can make to improve regularity and support your overall digestive health.

1. Keep a balanced diet. Foods that are high in fiber will help move things along but there’s no need to eliminate meat from your diet—just don’t overdo it and be sure to get your roughage, too.

2. Sleep at least seven hours a night. Lack of sleep leads to stress, and stress messes with your bowels—so if you want your digestive system to run like a well-oiled machine, it’s wise to aim for a solid seven hours each night. 3. Maintain a healthy gut. Many things can affect the delicate balance of flora in your gut—genetics, medications and diet, to name a few—and a problematic microbiome can manifest in many ways, including issues with your bowel movements and regularity. Thus, taking yogurt that contains lactobacillus on a daily basis would help make pooping regular. By Manny Palomar, PhD (EV Mail August 8-14, 2022 issue)