There is not a medical definition for frequent bowel movements. Too few bowel movements is generally classified as constipation. If it occurs more often than average, then it is often referred to as diarrhea. Several bowel movements a day is unusual, particularly if this pattern seems abnormal to you. However, if nothing else about your bowel movements is different and there are no other symptoms, then the change is probably not caused by an underlying health condition and you are probably in a good health.
What Are Frequent Bowel Movements
A healthy digestive system will result in regular bowel movements. However, “regular” is a relative term. Generally, the healthy frequency for bowel movements ranges from once every three days up to three times daily. Diarrhea is defined as more than three trips to the toilet in one day. Constipation occurs when bowel movements are spaced more than three days apart.
There is no specific guideline to define what would be considered as an overly frequent excretion of feces. One individual may commonly pass one stool every other day, whereas another individual may pass two stools a day. For this reason, you should figure out your normal bowel movement frequency so you can be aware of changes that may be early warning signs of health problems. If you are experiencing more frequent bowel movements than usual, then it may indicate a problem.
What Causes Frequent Bowel Movements
Making lifestyle and dietary changes may cause having bowel movements more often than usual. Common causes of frequent bowel movements include:
- Dietary changes such as drinking more water, and eating more whole grains, vegetables and fruits
- Getting regular exercise or exercising more than usual
- Bile malabsorption
- Food poisoning
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity or celiac disease
- Allergic reaction to medications or food
- Diverticulitis (inflammation of the colon)
- Gallbladder disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Viral gastroenteritis (inflammation of the intestinal tract caused by viruses)
In rare cases, the cause of having frequent bowel movements might be a serious underlying health condition such as:
How to Stop Frequent Bowel Movements
You can stop frequent bowel movements by changing your diet and lifestyle, but just remember that trying to avoid frequent bowel movements may result in constipation, which is just as bad as frequent bowel movements.
1. Limit Your Fiber Consumption
According to a study, consuming an excess of fiber-rich foods can increase the frequency of bowel movements. If you’re eating an excessive amount of fruits and vegetables, which contain high amounts of fiber, you may want to cut back.
- Foods that are high in fiber include green peas, split peas, oatmeal, artichoke, lentils, beans, broccoli, apples, pears and raspberries.
2. Avoid Dairy Products
- Check the label of dairy products. Lactose is a type of sugar, so the less sugar a dairy product has, the less lactose it will likely contain.
- You may be able to keep eating cheese. Some people with lactose intolerance can still tolerate cheese, as many varieties have low amounts of lactose. Generally, the more aged the cheese is, the less lactose it contains.
3. Avoid Sugary Foods
Sugary foods can lead to unwanted cramping and increased frequency of bowel movements. It would be wise to avoid sugary foods if you are experiencing an increased frequency of stools.
4. Avoid Snacking
Snacking can add to the amount of poop you will need to get rid of from your body, and also increases the regularity and continuity with which stool progresses to its exit. Try to only eat at meal times. If you must eat between meals, eat moderately.
5. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol can also cause diarrhea and may exacerbate bowel-related medical conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
6. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine stimulates the muscles that are responsible for producing stool. In other words, it can increase the frequency of your bowel movements.
- Try cutting down on the number of caffeinated drinks you consume each day. Alternatively, try “half-caf” coffee, which has half the caffeine of a standard cup of coffee.
- Try replacing caffeinated drinks with water, juice, or tea.
7. Reduce Your Stress
Stress may contribute to increased bowel movement frequency and can cause diarrhea. People often feel anxious about finances, relationships, education exams, or other big life events. Avoid the stressors you are able to avoid. This can include changing your plans to avoid areas of high traffic, or avoiding a particularly difficult coworker.
8. Check Your Medications
Many medications can increase bowel movement frequency or cause diarrhea. Check the package insert that came with your medication. If diarrhea or any changes in bowel frequency are listed as possible side effects, consult your healthcare provider if you experience these symptoms.
- Adderall has diarrhea listed as a side effect.
- Other common medications can cause diarrhea, including misoprostol, laxatives, and stool softeners.
9. Keep a Food Diary
Often times, frequent bowel movements can indicate a food allergy or intolerance. For example, perhaps every time you eat spicy food, you have an increased number of bowel movements.
Write down everything you eat and what time you eat it. When you have a bowel movement, chart this in your diary as well. Eventually, a pattern may emerge. This will allow you to make sure exactly what food caused frequent bowel movements, meaning you can avoid that particular food in the future.
Worrying Symptoms Associated with Frequent Bowel Movements
Having several bowel movements per day is considered more than normal, especially if this changes suddenly. Increased bowel movements or changes in the consistency, volume, or appearance of poop can indicate an underlying medical condition. Seek medical attention if your frequent bowel movements are accompanied by:
- Abdominal pain
- A change of color from your normal stool
- Blood within your stool
- Foul smelling stools
- Pain when excreting feces
- Extreme gas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Inability to control bowels