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.
What does a healthy poop look like?
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,” he says. 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.
“Usually, if someone takes longer than a minute [to poop] while also needing to push hard, they are likely constipated,” he says. Constipation is an indication that the diet is lacking fiber and water, so eat more leafy greens, oats, and other high-fiber foods. In addition, drink more water to flush things out.
“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.
Looking for some healthy foods to help you poop? Check out these recommendations from an RD:
As for fluids, try the eight-by-eight rule. “According to this rule, each person needs to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day,” he says. Have more if you are active. “For moderate workouts of one hour or less, bring about 24 ounces of water to drink during and after exercising,” he recommends.
If it takes less than 10 seconds to poop or it is liquidy, 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. You can speak to a gastroenterologist to discuss some options for relief.
You can also try eliminating common offenders: 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 or dietitian.
Is pooping for too long bad?
Good news: As long as the stool itself appears normal and there's no discomfort, there’s nothing to worry about. Again, if there's no discomfort and the stool is soft and easy to pass, there is little cause for concern.
So, as long as it’s not diarrhea or too difficult to push out, you can relax and take your time. Just don’t grab a magazine and sit for too long, 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." 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.
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