Do You Really Need to Go #2 Once a Day?

Like most things below the belt, regular is all relative.

By: K. Aleisha Fetters

Aimee Barychko
Aimee Barychko

Most people go #2 anywhere between three times a day and three times a week, says Benjamin Lebwohl, M.D., a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia University Medical Center. Put that on a bell curve and it means most of us stink up a bathroom once a day.

"However, it's not intrinsically less healthy to go less often than once a day," says Lebwhol. "Every person's bowels have their own tempo."

So it's cool if your intestines are on a MWF schedule-as long as you don't feel stuffed up or bloated, he says. The digestive tract can hold anywhere from a meal to a week's worth of meals, and then some. And while it's pretty gnarly to think about, the sheer mass of backed-up bowels can cause everything from an aching back to a literal food belly, he says. Plus, the longer poop sits sill in your intestines, the more opportunity it has to produce smelly, room-clearing gas.

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But while the pace of your innards doesn't dictate good health, how often you need to put them to good use might. Exercising on the regular can get food moving from end to end, meaning that couch potatoes are more likely to have a sluggish stomach compared to fitness fanatics.

Plus, adequate fiber intake-famed for speeding up trips to the bathroom-can help prevent heart disease, the number-one killer of American men. So a regular bowel movements could actually be a sign of a healthy heart, he says. The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults get 20 to 35 grams per day, but reports that the average American gets about half of that.

So stock up on plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and, if necessary, fiber supplements. Just go slow on the increase. "Rapidly increasing fiber can shock the system and throw off your body's levels of intestinal bacteria, causing diarrhea and gas," he says. And that's just a whole other side of gross.

Instead, up your fiber intake over the course of a few weeks to find your particular brand of regular. We promise, the person heading into the bathroom after you won't be the only guy who's grateful.

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