It’s amazing what your bathroom schedule can tell you about your overall health. Something as simple as elimination habits can give you a glimpse into the workings of your body, hint at what might be going on inside, and help you address what needs to be fixed.
The Importance of Paying Attention to Your Bathroom Habits
Your bathroom habits can tell you more than you might think! For example, are you absorbing fat? Could you have a blockage? Are you getting enough water and fiber? All of these things can be revealed if you just take a peek at your poop. If there is no poop, that tells you something too.
How Often Should You Go?
You should go at least once a day, though twice a day is ideal. How often you visit the bathroom will vary a little from person to person, so pay attention to your body.
Is your stool hard or soft? If it’s hard, you should look at your fiber and water intake (you’re probably dehydrated and/or constipated). If it’s too soft and liquid, your food is moving through you too quickly.
Sometimes the consistency is more important than the frequency, but once or twice a day is a good baseline.
What Frequency of Visits Says About Your Metabolism
In general, the faster your metabolism, the more you poop. Those with a slower metabolism may not visit the bathroom twice a day. They may only go once a day or once every other day (or even more infrequently). Regular exercise, a healthy sleep schedule, and a clean, whole foods based diet will keep your metabolism going at a steady pace—and keep you going to the bathroom regularly.
That said, digestion and metabolism aren’t as closely linked as it may seem. What you eat can affect how quickly your food moves through your body, and just because something moves through your body rapidly, that doesn’t necessarily mean you were able to efficiently utilize the energy from that food (which is what a healthy metabolism’s all about). Also, things that don’t directly relate to digestion—like your age, gender, weight, current exercise routine, health issues, and even your hormones—can affect your metabolism.
In other words, you can have a fast metabolism without pooping every day, and it’s also possible to poop every day (or more than once a day) but have a slow metabolism. The two processes are linked, but one doesn’t tell you all you need to know about the other.
Do Your Pooping Habits Change as You Age?
A couple of things happen as you age. First, your metabolism will probably slow down at least a little, which could decrease the number of times you visit the bathroom in a day. People also become more prone to constipation as they age.
Twenty-six percent of women and 16 percent of men over 65 report being constipated. This may be as a result of medication, trouble moving around, cognitive disorders, or simply not getting enough water or fiber in the diet. A few stretches in the morning paired with a diet rich in fiber and an increased intake of water should help in many cases.
What Your Poop Can Tell You About Your Digestive Health
The occasional change in size, shape, color, or smell isn’t usually a big deal and could just be related to what you ate recently. However, if you notice a sudden change that doesn’t go away, you may need to see a doctor.
Size and Shape
Your bowel movements should be torpedo-shaped and soft enough to pass easily. If they become skinnier over time, it could be a sign of something serious, like colon cancer or polyps.
If what’s in the toilet looks more like a bunch of rocks and it was difficult to pass, you’re probably in need of more fiber to help it pass through before the water is reabsorbed.
Brown is good! You knew that, though, right? Some other colors you may see: red, green, yellow, white, and black. All of these other colors (barring the consumption of foods or medications that would cause a temporary shift) could be indicative of something going on in the body that needs to be addressed. For example:
- Red could mean lower GI bleeding.
- Green could mean Crohn’s Disease.
- Yellow could mean gallbladder trouble or parasites.
- White could mean liver disease or pancreatic trouble.
- Black could mean upper GI bleeding.
Check out our graphic about what poop and pee can tell you for at-a-glance info.
Your poop’s never going to smell like roses, but it shouldn’t regularly smell totally vile. If it does, it could be a sign that your body isn’t absorbing everything it should from your food. Underlying issues could include: Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, food allergies, irritable bowel disorder, or infection.
A little mucus every now and then may not be cause for worry, but if you frequently see mucus in the toilet when you visit the bathroom, it could be a sign of something serious, like an infection, Crohn’s Disease, cancer, or ulcerative colitis. If it is a serious problem, the mucus is usually accompanied by other symptoms, like pain or blood.
Mucus could also be a sign that you have candida, a yeast overgrowth that can be caused by antibiotics, birth control pills, or processed foods. It feeds on sugar and is often accompanied by symptoms such as insomnia, constipation, diarrhea, terrible menstrual cramps, bloating, anxiety, headaches, food allergies, and difficulty losing weight.
How to Increase and Improve Your Bowel Movements
If you need to increase your bowel movements, try:
- Drinking more water and starting the day with hot water with lemon
- Eating more fiber (load up on fresh fruits and veggies)
- Getting light exercise every day (just a few yoga twists in the morning could do the trick)
- Try taking Mag O7 for a few nights to get things moving again, then decrease how often you use it
Pay Attention to Your Poop
Pay attention to how often you’re visiting the bathroom as well as how your poop looks and smells for clues as to what may be going on inside your body. If you’re not going often enough, try to increase your water and fiber intake and move around a little more so that you’re going at least once a day. If you do notice any sudden changes (aside from a temporary color change based on what you’ve eaten recently, like beets or more dark leafy greens, for example), it may warrant a doctor’s visit.