Want to know a secret? At any given time, one in seven adults and one in three kids in the UK are experiencing constipation (it’s also much more likely to affect women than men).
Whether you’re facing a lack of fibre, a less-than-active lifestyle, or simply not drinking enough water, you may be among the many affected by the condition. But how little pooping is too little ― and does such a number even exist?
Here’s what we found out:
Some people usually pass stools as often as three to four times a day, whereas others’ BM barometer might be set at the same amount over an entire week.
Neither is inherently bad. “Doctors look at how often someone poops and the consistency to determine if a person’s bowel habits are usual,” Medical News Today said ― in other words, the best way to tell if you’re pooping too often or too little is to compare your schedule to your usual routine.
Even then, “Experiencing temporary changes in bowel habits or patterns is normal,” Medical News Today adds. Everything from hormonal changes throughout your menstrual cycle to travelling, a change in diet, or even your stress levels can change your bowel habits.
Still, there is an ideal minimum poop level for most people
Though everyone is indeed different when it comes to their number two habits, the NHS says that there’s still a number most of us should aim to hit over the week.
You’re likely blocked up if “you have not had a poo at least three times during the last week or you’re pooing less often than usual,” they say; Medical News Today puts it at a minimum of three bowel movements a week, too.
You’re also likely to be constipated if you have unusually large or small, dry, lumpy BMs, if you never feel like you’ve fully emptied your bowels, if you feel bloated, and if you experience pain and strain when trying to pass faeces.
What causes constipation, and what cures it?
A lack of fibre, low exercise levels, not drinking enough water, ignoring the need to go number two, taking certain medications, stressing out, and changing your diet can all cause constipation.
And so can certain hormonal changes that may happen throughout your menstrual cycle or while pregnant.
Eating a healthy diet (especially one which contains high-fibre foods, like oats and wheat bran, or fruits that contain sorbitol such as apples, apricots, grapes raspberries, and strawberries) can help.
Exercising, drinking water, avoiding booze, and sleeping well can help in the long term too, while over-the-counter laxatives might provide sweet relief in the shorter term.
When should I see a doctor about constipation?
The NHS says that you should see a doctor if you are regularly bloated, have blood in your poo, or have lost weight without trying.
You might also want to see your doctor if you are constipated and it’s not getting better with treatment, are regularly constipated, are constipated and feel tired all the time, or are taking medicine that’s causing constipation – such as opioid painkillers.
Finally, you might want to speak to your doctor if you notice sudden changes in how you poo (your bowel habits), or have tummy pain.