Is Morning the Ideal Time of Day To Poop for a Healthy Digestive System? Here’s What a Gastro Says

Photo: Stocksy/Duet Postscriptum
Some people shy away from talking about bowel movements… but I’m certainly not among them. To borrow from the title of a popular children’s book, everyone poops—so if you ask me, there’s no need to be coy about it. As a matter of fact, there are many merits of diving into the details of toilet talk, especially when you feel like something may be off, or if you’re unsure of what’s “normal” and what isn’t.

Take, for example, the subject of pooping in the morning. Many of us may pass bowel movements shortly after waking up in the morning, day in and day out, like clockwork. But is this timing ideal? And if you tend to relieve yourself later in the day—or not even daily at all—are these signs of less-than-optimal digestion? To learn about the ins and (ahem) outs of morning poop, we consulted Ali Rezaie, MD, a gastroenterologist at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, co-author of The Microbiome Connection, and co-founder of The Good LFE.

Experts In This Article

Why is it common to pass bowel movements in the morning?

According to Dr. Rezaie, passing a morning bowel movement is very common since it's most often preceded by a long overnight fast. “Our small bowel and colon—large bowel—move quite differently during the time of eating and digestion, as compared to the ‘fasting phase’ that starts several hours after eating,” Dr. Rezaie says. “During the fasting phase, roughly every two hours, housekeeper waves sweep through the small bowel and move the contents into the large bowel.”

Since we don’t eat while we’re fast asleep, this process occurs without interruption as we catch our ZZZs. “The large bowel is filled with stool overnight, which is why bowel movements happen in the morning,” Dr. Rezaie says.

Does a regular morning poop indicate optimal digestion?

Based on the process Dr. Rezaie outlined above, it may seem as though pooping in the morning is “normal” or even ideal—and anything that strays from that may indicate that something isn’t right. However, he notes that the time at which you relieve yourself doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of your digestive health.

“It’s tricky to firmly conclude that digestion is optimal simply based on timing and regularity of bowel habits,” Dr. Rezaie explains. Instead, he mentions that “normal” bowel movements vary from one person to the next.

“Anywhere between three times per day to three times per week is considered normal,” Dr. Rezaie continues. So long as you *go,* the time of day in which you pass your BMs isn’t too consequential. Consistency, however, is more important when it comes to your body’s own version of digestive normalcy. “Someone who regularly has one or two bowel movements a day will feel constipated if no stooling occurs for two days in a row,” Dr. Rezaie shares as an example. Follow your body's natural schedule, no matter who's around—there are unpleasant side effects of holding in poop.

In addition, the quality and quantity of your BMs will vary based on a range of individualized factors. “In healthy individuals, bowel habits are affected by and dependent on physical activity, diet—especially the fiber content and presence of stimulants such as coffee—as well as medications and sleeping patterns,” Dr. Rezaie says. On this last point, disrupted circadian rhythms are known to contribute to GI disorders including GERD, IBS, and IBD.

Moreover, Dr. Rezaie mentions that jet lag can also affect bowel habits. In fact, a 2021 study in mice shows that chronic jet lag “led to decreased microbial abundance, richness, and diversity in both feces and jejunal contents.” Simply put, don’t underestimate the importance of high-quality shut-eye when it comes to your digestion and greater health.

The bottom line

In sum, pooping in the morning may be routine for some of us. But if you’re not in this camp, Dr. Rezaie assures us that it’s not worth losing sleep over. (After all, worrying about your BMs will likely result in suboptimal stress poops.)

With that said, if you’re hoping to optimize your BMs whether you pass them in the morning, noon, or at night, stick to a few tried-and-true tips: Stay hydrated throughout the day, prioritize fiber and probiotics, and follow an active lifestyle. Last but not least, consult a doctor if your BMs are more or less frequent or solid, or harder to pass than usual.

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