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No matter how regular your bathroom routine tends to be,  things can go a little off tract every so often—pun intended. Ever suddenly noticed it’s been a little longer than usual since you last had a bowel movement? Welcome to your thirties (only joking).

In most cases, there isn’t need to, you know, have a full-blown poo panic. However, Sarah Robbins, MD, MSc, FRCPC, a gastroenterologist, gut health expert, and founder of Well Sunday, explains it’s important to take note of the signs your body tells you that your bathroom schedule is off to determine the root cause of your GI-related woes. Ahead we delve into the potential culprits causing the back up and the best ways to get your regular pooping routine back on track.

Signs of a healthy pooping schedule

According to Dr. Robbins, defining a “normal” pooping schedule is nearly impossible, as it can drastically vary from individual to individual. “It can be ‘normal’ for someone to have a bowel movement three times a day or as infrequently as three times a week,” Dr. Robbins says.

This is because frequency and timing of bathroom visits can be influenced by many factors, such as age, diet, fluid intake, physical activity, medications, medical conditions, and even stress levels, the gut health expert explains. That said, Dr. Robbins notes that although there isn’t a universally accepted “normal” bowel habit schedule, there are some general patterns and guidelines you can reference.

“It can be ‘normal’ for someone to have a bowel movement three times a day or as infrequently as three times a week,” Dr. Robbins says.

Regular vs. irregular bowel movements 

Dr. Robbins looks for two key components for determining regular bowel movements:

  • Good frequency: A bowel movement three times a day, or as infrequently as three times a week, as previously noted
  • Ideal consistency: Type three and four feces, according to The Bristol Stool Chart

Conversely, signs of abnormal bowel movements are:

  • Irregular frequency: Less than three bowel movements per week—constipation—or more than three watery bowel movements per day—diarrhea—for an extended period
  • Extremes in consistency: chronic presence of very hard or very loose stools

That said, irregular bowel movements can also result in other symptoms, such as blood in the stool, severe abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or persistent changes in bowel habits, she says. What’s more, Dr. Robbins reiterates that everyone will have their own definition of a “usual” pattern. “The key is in understan

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