Stools differ from person to person. People may have a bowel movement several times a week or several times a day. A sudden change in stool frequency may be due to stress, a change in diet or exercise, or an underlying disease. If the stools return to normal after a few days, there is no need to worry. However, consistently passing significantly more bowel movements than normal may signal an underlying condition that may require treatment.
Here are nine potential causes of the frequent need to have a bowel movement. Here’s also information on treatment options and when to seek medical attention for gastrointestinal discomfort.
Main causes of frequent urge to have a bowel movement
Dietary changes and alcohol consumption can affect a person’s bowel habits. Here are some potential causes of pooping more often than normal.
1 Dietary changes
A change in diet can lead to a change in bowel movements. For example, consuming more fiber helps food pass through the digestive system. So, a person who adds more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to their diet may find that they need to poop more often.
2 Alcohol consumption
Alcohol can have an immediate effect on the amount of stool a person passes. Drinks with high alcohol content can slow down the digestive system, while drinks with low alcohol content can speed it up. Low alcohol drinks include beer and wine. After consuming these drinks, people may feel like pooping more often or faster. This effect should go away once the alcohol leaves the body.
A 2017 review suggests that low-intensity exercise can decrease the time it takes for food to pass through the gut. This could result in more regular bowel movements. Some people report a need for bowel movements during or immediately after physical activity. Intense exercise has a greater impact on the body and can cause the following symptoms:
Stress can have a big impact on gut function and health. It speeds up the movement of food through the large intestine, while persistent stress could trigger a need to empty the bowels more often. People suffering from acute stress or anxiety may also feel an increased need to go to the bathroom. This is due to the body’s gut-brain axis, the network that connects the central nervous system to the nerves of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The gut-brain axis is responsible for the “butterflies” a person feels in their stomach when they are anxious.
The definition of diarrhea is as follows: at least three loose, liquid stools per day. Other symptoms may include:
– an urgent need to go to the toilet
– loss of bowel control
– abdominal pain
Diarrhea can occur as a result of a viral, bacterial or parasitic infection. The exact cause may not be obvious in some cases. Most cases of diarrhea should go away within 4 days. In the meantime, it is better to rest and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
People are more likely to experience abdominal pain and diarrhea in the days leading up to their period. People who report emotional symptoms and fatigue before or during their period were more likely to experience multiple GI symptoms. The researchers conclude that this may be due to common pathways between the brain, gut and hormones. These symptoms usually go away once your period ends.
7 Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that can cause the following symptoms:
– stomach cramps
The cause of IBS is unclear, but some possible reasons include:
– hypersensitivity of the nerves inside the intestine
– food passes through the intestine too quickly or too slowly
– the stress
– genetic factors.
Common dietary triggers of IBS are:
– dairy products
– fizzy drinks
8 Food intolerances
Food intolerances occur when a person is unable to properly digest certain foods.
– abdominal pain or discomfort
Here are some examples of food intolerances
– lactose intolerance, where a person is unable to break down the lactose found in milk and dairy products
– fructose intolerance, in which a person is unable to break down fructose, a fruit sugar
– non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which results in an inability to break down the gluten proteins contained in cereals.
9 Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Symptoms vary from person to person, in part depending on which part of the digestive tract is affected. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
– an urgent need to empty the intestines
– a feeling of incomplete emptying of the intestines
– persistent diarrhea
– rectal bleeding
– cramps and abdominal pain
There is no definite cause for Crohn’s disease, although genetic and environmental factors may play a role.
Treatment for more frequent urination depends on the underlying cause. If a person has an underlying medical condition, a doctor will need to treat it to relieve symptoms.
However, people may also benefit from more general treatments.
For example, the following options might help someone with acute diarrhea:
– over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications
– sports drinks or rehydration solutions to help prevent dehydration
– avoid alcohol, caffeine and sweeteners
– avoid fatty, spicy or dairy foods.
A person who thinks their diet causes them to have more frequent bowel movements may want to keep a food diary. This can help her recognize foods that may be affecting her bowel habits. Once the person has identified trigger foods, they should avoid or limit them.
When to consult a doctor
A need to have a bowel movement more often than usual is not necessarily cause for concern. However, a person should see a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:
– abdominal pain
– diarrhea that lasts more than 2 days
– have a bowel movement 6 or more times in 24 hours
– black or bloody stools
– nausea or vomiting
– persistent fever
– symptoms of dehydration
These symptoms may indicate a serious underlying medical problem.
It is not always possible to prevent the triggers of more frequent bowel movements. However, the following tips can help reduce the risk of digestive problems.
– Increase fiber intake
A person who consumes a lot of fiber can promote more regular bowel movements. People should eat more vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
It is important to gradually increase the intake of dietary fiber and to drink plenty of water. This will help prevent constipation.
– Reduce stress
People who experience bowel problems due to stress can benefit from the following activities:
– physical exercise
– relaxation therapy
– talk therapy
– Practice good hygiene
The following tips can reduce the risk of contracting bacteria and viruses that can cause stomach upset and diarrhea:
– wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet
– wash hands thoroughly before preparing and eating food
– cook meat well
– avoid sharing personal items, such as: kitchen utensils, toothbrushes, razors, towels
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