A poop or two a day is good for you (yes, every day!), but not if you’re sitting for too long on the toilet. Whether you’re struggling to get things moving or you can’t seem to make it stop, taking too long to poop can waste your time and signify a problem with your bowels.
“It can take the average person anywhere from 10 seconds to one minute to have a bowel movement. Anything longer than that would likely be considered constipation,” says Niket Sonpal, MD, internist and gastroenterologist in New York City, as well as an adjunct assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. Ahead we delve into signs of a healthy poop routine, and what to do if you do happen to find yourself on the porcelain thrown for a bit longer than usual.
- Niket Sonpal, MD, New York-based internist and gastroenterologist
What does a healthy poop look like?
To determine whether or not your bowel movement is healthy, there are a few key things to look out for, such as poop texture. For context, anywhere between a firm and soft consistency is considered normal. “If it sways one way or another, it could suggest some digestion or fiber issues,” Dr. Sonpal says.
What's more, log-shaped with some cracks on the surface is the gold standard of poop, especially if it’s somewhat soft and easy to pass. “A somewhat log-like shape is how most poop should come out due to its formation within the intestines,” Dr. Sonpal says. Poop shouldn’t come out in small pellets but instead should be a couple of inches in length, as well as be comfortable and easy to pass. On the flip side, thin poop can indicate that your pelvic floor is too tense or it may be a sign of narrowing or obstruction of the colon due to an underlying condition.
When in doubt, you can also refer to the The Bristol Stool Chart, which categorizes feces into seven types (where type three—a sausage shape with cracks in the surface—and type four—like a smooth, soft sausage, or snake—are typically classified as ideal). Meanwhile, separate hard lumps (type one) and lumpy and sausage like (type two), may be indicative of constipation. And soft, blobs with clear-cut edges (type five) is a sign of low fiber, mushy consistency with ragged edges (type six) is a sign of inflammation, and liquid consistency with no solid pieces (type seven) is a sign of inflammation and diarrhea.
In addition to poop shape, you may also want to take note of how your poop smells. If poop smells like sulfur, it may indicate malabsorption of nutrients and difficulty with digesting certain foods. Plus, your poop color can also help shed light on any other underlying GI-related issues.
Although foods can play a role in how your poop will look (read: eating beets may turn your stool a bright purple hue), it's important to take note of poop color when it likely isn't as a result of what you ate. For example, unexpectedly black or reddish/pink-colored poop can be signs of blood in stool, in which case it's best to consult with a medical professional to rule out any other serious conditions.
So, why is it taking me so long to poop?
One common reason why it may be taking you so long to poop is simple: constipation. “Usually, if someone takes longer than a minute [to poop] while also needing to push hard, they are likely constipated,” he says. Although constipation symptoms can differ from individual to individual, some common symptoms include: Having less than three bowel movements per week, having hard or lumpy poop, straining to poop, or feeling as though you've had an incomplete bowel movement.
Fortunately, there are tons of foods that make you poop (almost immediately) that can help mitigate the issue at hand. Constipation is an indication that the diet is lacking fiber and water, so eat more leafy greens, oats, and other high-fiber foods. On that note, since fiber reigns supreme when it comes to gut health, you'll want to ensure you're hitting your daily quotas consistently. “The recommended amount of fiber for adults is 30 to 35 grams daily,” Dr. Sonpal says, so start considering how many grams go into the meals you’re eating and use this range as a minimum. If you decide you should increase your fiber intake, do so gradually—adding too much fiber to your diet at once can cause gas, bloating, discomfort, and even diarrhea.
In addition, you'll want to ensure you're drinking sufficient water to help flush things out, as hydration and constipation go hand in hand. An easy way to keep your fluid intake in check is by trying the eight-by-eight rule. “According to this rule, each person needs to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water every day,” Dr. Sonpal says. Keep in mind, he suggests upping your intake if you're more active. “For moderate workouts of one hour or less, bring about 24 ounces of water to drink during and after exercising,” he says.
Is pooping too quickly bad?
Although Dr. Sonpal previously noted the "normal" bowel movement timeframe is anywhere from 10 seconds to one minute, something faster than that isn't exactly ideal, either. In short: If it takes less than 10 seconds to poop or it is liquid-y, meaning there are no long pieces, you're likely dealing with diarrhea. (The poop could also be fluffy and mushy with ragged edges.) “It could indicate that you have a gastrointestinal condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), causing the digestion process to speed up and pass stool too quickly,” he says.
If you're dealing with frequent bouts of diarrhea, you can start by eliminating some of these common offender—things like dairy, gluten, acidic foods, coffee, or carbonated beverages—from your diet for a couple of weeks and see if you start feeling better. Then, slowly add each food back into your diet, one at a time, and see if you start experiencing symptoms again. For more accurate results, seek guidance from a doctor (like a gastroenterologist) or dietitian to discuss some options for relief.
Is it normal to take 30 minutes to poop?
Good news: As long as the stool itself appears normal and there's no discomfort, there’s typically nothing to worry about... even if that entails sitting on the toilet for longer than you expected. Again, that is if and only if there's no discomfort and the stool is soft and easy to pass.
TL;DR? As long as it’s not diarrhea or too difficult to push out, you can relax and take your time. But, you may not want to grab a magazine and sit for too long just yet, Dr. Sonpal says. “Don't spend longer than you need to on the toilet,” he says. “Spending too long sitting on the toilet puts pressure on the blood vessels around the anus and can lead to hemorrhoids." Also, if you haven't pooped in several days, you should also refer to a medical professional to ensure there isn't an underlying condition at play.
Apparently, like many things when it comes to your health, your poop time requires the Goldilocks approach: not too long, but not too short either, resulting in a poop that feels good, too.
Looking for some healthy foods to help you poop? Check out these recommendations from an RD:
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