The food and drink that you consume passes through your digestive tract where the nutrients from it are absorbed, and the waste matter left behind is the bowel or feces or stool. The excretion of this waste matter from your body is known as bowel movement. Your questions like how frequent bowel movements should be, what is normal bowel movement, how to maintain a normal bowel movement? etc.. are answered in this article.
Also read: How often should you urinate?
Characteristics Of Normal Bowel Movement
Whether in case of babies, young children, adults, or elderly, normal bowel movements are indicated by-
- A strong urge for defecating after each major meal or at least one time every day
- Feces should be small sized, soft, and of finger length, that are sometimes barely formed
- The volume of feces should be low, not more than 100 to 150 gm per bowel movement
- Defecation should be easy, quick, effortless, and complete
If one’s bowel movements do not adhere to the above-mentioned indications, there may be the associated risk of a major or minor colorectal disorder. Under such cases of changes in bowel movements, it is advised that one should visit the doctor immediately to get things rectified.
When you are having constipation, your feces is dry, hard and lumpy. You find difficulty or pain in passing your feces, along with discomfort and bloating. Constipation can result from chronic dehydration, low intake of dietary fiber, and lack of exercise. In order to prevent dehydration, you should drink enough water daily (8 glasses are ideal), and avoid consuming caffeine. You can get enough exercise by walking for 30 minutes for at least 3 days a week. This not only prevents constipation and promotes better digestion, but also is good for your overall health. You can get good amount of dietary fiber by consuming vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
When you are having diarrhea, your feces is watery and you pass it more than thrice a day. This problem is faced by most adults a few times each year, and usually stays for a day or two. This does not require any treatment. Usually this is a result of infection, food intolerance, or side effects of medication. In case you have diarrhea for over 3 days, and you experience fever, dehydration or severe pain, or if your feces is black in color, or has blood in it, you should fix an appointment with your doctor immediately.
Other Abnormal Bowel Movements
- Blood in the feces- Blood in the feces is a serious health issue. It could result from a range of mild conditions like hemorrhoids to severe conditions such as colon cancer or infection. This can also be a result of bleeding in some area of your digestive tract, and hence has to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor as early as possible.
- Black color feces- Black color feces with a repulsive smell can result because of minor causes like eating certain foods or consuming iron supplements, or because of critical issues like internal bleeding in the digestive tract.
- Red or maroon feces- Read or maroon color feces could result from something as mild as eating some red pigmented food, or something as serious a hemorrhoids, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticular bleeding, colon polyps, anal fissures, or colon cancer.
- Green feces- Green color feces can be excreted as a result of taking artificially colored foods, or decreased colonic transit time, or intake of iron supplements. Newborns usually excrete green feces during their first few days of life.
- Pale feces- Pale feces may be an indication that bile salts are lacking in your excreta. These may also indicate that you lack barium or antacids, or that you have hepatitis.
How To Maintain A Normal Bowel Movement?
Here are a few things that you can follow in order to maintain a normal bowel movement.
- Consume more dietary fiber: The most important cause of constipation is the inadequate intake of dietary fiber and liquid. So, consume adequate quantities of food rich in dietary fiber. It is estimated that you need 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain good volumes of dietary fiber.
- Minimize your intake of foods low in fiber. These include cheese, ice cream, meat, sugary foods and processed meat. They can cause constipation.
- Drink enough water: Taking eight glasses of water per day is ideal. It facilitates easy and regular bowel movements. Never wait until you get thirsty. Apart from water, drink fresh fruit juices along with their pulp. Green teas and soups are also good choices, but not caffeinated, alcoholic and aerated drinks.
- Do not take laxatives: Laxatives, if improperly consumed, without following the specified directions can worsen your constipation.
- Get enough exercise: Regular exercise regulates your bowel movement. Walk, swim, or ride at least three days a week for 30 minutes each day.
- Never skip your meals: Skipping meals slows down the forward movement of food in your digestive tract.
- Alleviate stress: Stress can leads to constipation by making the large intestine to spasm. So, reduce stress through getting enough sleep and exercise, and taking a proper diet.
- Do not ignore the urge to pass your bowel: Listen to your body! Resisting the urge to go to the toilet can also lead to constipation.
The Final Word….
Every individual has his own normal bowel movement patterns. However, if you frequency experience constipation, and if the above tips do not help, consult a doctor. He will let you know whether you need a health check up or not.