All Your Poop Questions, Answered

We all have questions about our poop, but, unlike politics, relationships and television shows, few people feel comfortable talking about their bowel movements over coffee (although, come on, poop and coffee? What a match!) So, for those of you who feel a little timid around toilet talk, here are the answers to a handful of common questions we’ve all had at some point:

How often should I poop?

The standard is once a day… for most people. Of course, some of us go 2-3 times a day, some less than once a day. If you don’t poop very often, it may be time to consider eating more fibrous veggies. Otherwise, there is no ‘normal’ when it comes to quantity of daily bowel movements. And as for timing, don’t worry about how long you actually spend on the toilet. Some people are lightening fast while others take their time. As long as pooping isn’t painful and you’re not pushing too hard, spend as much time on the toilet as feels right. No matter what your schedule, regularity is good. If you are irregular (constipation or diarrhea), that could be a sign that your gut bacteria are out of whack. If you don’t take probiotics already, it’s a good time to start.

Related: How to Make Your Poop More Eco-Friendly

Is it normal to have loose/hard stool?

If it happens on occasion, changes in composition are completely normal. That being said, consistently loose stool that is a small step away from diarrhea can be a sign of IBS, Celiac, imbalanced gut bacteria and more. Conversely, consistently hard, pellet-like stool is a sign that you need more fiber and plant matter in your diet, and perhaps an extra glass of water.

Why does coffee make me go? 

If you’ve noticed that you’re always ready to empty out a few sips into your morning brew, you’ve probably wondered why. Why does coffee make us poop? Well, the phenomenon is mostly due to caffeine’s stimulating effect, which causes the bowels to contract. But, this same sensation can occur simply by drinking a glass of water upon waking.

Is it normal to see undigested food in the toilet?

The short answer is: yes. Some foods contain natural cellulose (insoluble fiber) that our bodies are simply unable to break down. Common culprits? Corn kernels and quinoa. Luckily, insoluble fiber can be good for us and have a beneficial effect on the digestive system. Of course, if you are seeing chunks of food in your stool consistently, it may be a sign of weak digestion or ineffective chewing. Slow down and chew your food more thoroughly and consult a professional if you suspect that your digestive system is out of whack.

Why do I get diarrhea on my period?

It is actually fairly common for people to experience diarrhea at the start of their periods. The body releases prostaglandins at the start of your period, which encourage the uterus to contract. Of course, when prostaglandins are released, they have the same effect on the muscles of your bowels, which means diarrhea. But wait, there’s more. If the body produces fewer prostaglandins, women may actually experience constipation at the start of their periods. Just the thing every woman wants, right?

Related: Is Your Period Normal? 4 Things to Look For

Does smell matter?

Yes and no. Poop smells bad. That is its nature. However, unusual changes in odor or extremely foul smells could signify something dietarily amiss. Those with food sensitivities may experience extremely smelly stool and flatulence when they consume trigger foods. Pay attention to any significant changes in smell, and talk to your doctor with questions.

Why is my poop red/green/dark blue sometimes?

While, if strange coloring occurs regularly, you should probably seek the assistance of your doctor, oftentimes our diets are responsible for Crayola-inspired droppings. If you eat a lot of beets, greens, carrots, blueberries or any other color-dense food, prepare for a little surprise in the morning. It’s nothing to worry about. Of course, certain colors and circumstances can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, specifically black stool (which could also be caused by innocuous Pepto Bismol), so if you feel concerned, always check in with a pro.

Does squatting really help?

There is a reason why the Squatty Potty is nearly a household name. It works. Anatomically, squatting aligns your innards so as to make bowel movements smoother, easier and more complete. Specifically, squatting fully relaxes the Puborectalis muscle, which is responsible for a kink at the end of the colon that keeps fecal matter from flowing out of its own accord. When you squat, the muscle releases its hold on the colon, allowing for ideal flow. If you are feeling constipated, try drinking some water and squatting to get things moving.

Why can’t I poop when I travel or vacation?

If you get stage fright while you are away from home, you’re not alone. Many people find themselves getting constipated when they travel. On the one hand, being uncomfortable and in a new environment might just cause you to involuntarily tighten up. On the other, air travel can be extremely dehydrating due to the pressure changes, so the water in your colon that keeps stool soft might get sucked dry. Be extra cautious to hydrate and try not to worry too much. It will happen eventually.

Everybody poops. There is no reason we shouldn’t talk about it. Embrace the smiley poop emoji into your life and stop being ashamed of this healthy human function. It’s natural!

Related:
6 Remedies to Keep You Regular
22 Delicious High-Fiber Foods
Foggy Brain? Try These 5 Tips for Clearer Thinking

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