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Why You Have to Poop in the Morning, According to Science

The early bird also catches the best bowel movement.

How many times a day should you poop? It’s a very real medical question with a fairly precise answer: Ideally once a day, preferably in the morning. Yes, the morning bowel movement is the best of all bowel movements, says gastroenterologist Dr. Sarina Pasricha. It’s not because it’s the only time when dads have a little privacy. Rather, morning poops are great because the human body is best equipped evacuate during this time. This is why you have to poop in the morning. So, please, don’t hold them in.

“In the morning, when we first wake up, an internal alarm clock goes off in our colon, and the colon starts contracting more vigorously,” Pasricha explains. “In fact, the colon contracts and squeezes three times as hard in the first hour we are awake compared to when we are sleeping.”

When people are asleep, the small intestine and colon work to process all the food leftover from the previous day. About 30 minutes after waking the urge to poop sets in. Morning routines like stretching, drinking water, and of course, coffee helps to move digestion along. About 30 percent of people report the need to go after a hot cup of joe. 

“Drinking early morning coffee works synergistically with gut motility to create healthy bowel movements,” Pasricha says. Another effective trick is a glass of warm saltwater (with a little lemon to improve the taste). While it won’t “detox” your body as some claim, it definitely helps to get things moving.

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Still, that’s not to say everyone should be pooping every morning, or that there’s no such thing as pooping too much. Anywhere from three days a week to three times a day is considered normal. Diet and exercise make the biggest difference between weekly and daily dumpers, and traveling can disrupt a person’s digestive cycle as well. It’s estimated that 40 percent of people experience constipation while on vacation, which isn’t the best way to relax. This is at least in part due to jet lag. “Sleep disturbances alter the natural colon peristalsis,” Pasricha warns. “People can have irregular bowel movements. Uninterrupted deep sleep is important in maintaining healthy pooping behavior.”

Ultimately, taking a morning poop is not vital for a person’s health, Pasricha says. But it sure is a pleasant diversion. “Typically the best time of the day to have a bowel movement is in the morning. However, some people may not have morning bowel movements and this does not necessarily mean there are any issues,” Pasricha. “It is okay not to have morning bowel movements as long as people are having regular daily bowel movements.”

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How Often Should You Poop? A Cheat Sheet

Bowel movement frequency is an important sign of health. A healthy daily routine should include:

  • About one poop a day.
  • A poop about 30 minutes after waking is normal (although no one should panic if this isn’t their window).
  • Coffee or even a glass of saltwater can help keep you “regular.”
  • If you’re pooping a lot more than twice a day, you should check in with your doctor. (Three times a week to three times a day is considered a normal range).