Bowel Movement Frequency

Bowel Movement Frequency
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Comparing the regularity of omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans.

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The fiber in flax seeds and other whole plant foods is about more than just reducing our risk for the #1 and #2 killers of Americans—heart disease and cancer. Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States, leading to millions of doctor visits every year. More than just the discomfort, constipation can increase risk for hiatal hernia, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and painful conditions with names like anal fissure.

The biggest study on bowel movement frequency in history was recently published, comparing the bowel habits of 15,000 meat eaters to 5,000 vegetarians and 1,000 vegans. The researchers conclude that being vegetarian, especially vegan, is strongly associated with a higher frequency of bowel movements. Vegans, for example, were about 3 times more likely to have daily BMs. Like I always said, vegans are just regular people.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

The fiber in flax seeds and other whole plant foods is about more than just reducing our risk for the #1 and #2 killers of Americans—heart disease and cancer. Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States, leading to millions of doctor visits every year. More than just the discomfort, constipation can increase risk for hiatal hernia, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and painful conditions with names like anal fissure.

The biggest study on bowel movement frequency in history was recently published, comparing the bowel habits of 15,000 meat eaters to 5,000 vegetarians and 1,000 vegans. The researchers conclude that being vegetarian, especially vegan, is strongly associated with a higher frequency of bowel movements. Vegans, for example, were about 3 times more likely to have daily BMs. Like I always said, vegans are just regular people.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

More on the health benefits of bowel frequency:

And check out the other videos on bowel movements

For additional context, check out my associated blog posts: Bowel Movements: The Scoop on Poop and Poultry Paunch: Meat & Weight Gain.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

30 responses to “Bowel Movement Frequency

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    1. Hello! So I’ve been doing the DailyDozen app for 30 days. I’ve been working on cutting out as much as I can of oil’s, sugar, flour, alcohol, chemicals/ processed food, meat, and dairy. I’ve been using the clean 15 and the dirty dozen list to figure out what to buy organic. After the 30 days I’ve noticed that every day I’ve had some bowel movement issues, bloating and stomach pain. I’ve also had some low energy. I’m trying to see if I should do something different with my diet / using the daily dozen. Help please!

      1. When you have been abusing yourself with food for years, it can take years to fix. You said “as much as you can” which means you didn’t do a perfect job of it. What you are finding out is two things.

        The first is that it doesn’t take much to wreck a good plan. One slice of toast can cause constipation that lasts for days or longer. Or just cream in your coffee can have the same result

        Secondly, not all foods are created equal. Just eating a vegetarian diet is not the same as know which foods do what – for you – or to you. It matters what you eat and drink – when you eat or drink it and what you are eating together. Real foods work in synergy as opposed to processed foods that just cause chaos.

        It matters what you drink and when you drink it too. It also matters how you chew and swallow.

        Just shoving stuff in your face doesn’t solve much.

      2. Sounds like you need a natural detox to clean you out once and for all. See MarcusRothkranz.com But after that, keep doing everything you’ve done everything will be working optimally. Good stuff: ginger, cayenne pepper, sesame seeds, prickly pear cactus smoothies

  1. Although I’m a vegetarian, I don’t have a BM everyday, Maybe every other day. And on the Bristol stool scale, I’m a type 4 when ever I do have a BM.

      1.  amazing! i always thought i was “regular” with on average 5 or 6 bowl movements a week. when i went on a vegan diet i was shocked at having 3 a day!!!

    1. I think in a later video he discusses how diets of near 100g fiber are actually healthy and the RDI is way lower than what it really should be.

  2. I have a friend who recently told me he has one bowel movement per week, and it’s huge. He also consumes very few fruits and vegetables and a lot of hamburgers. I told him that, at a minimum, he should have a bowel movement once every two or three days, and I added that he should sharply increase his consumption of fruits and vegetables to improve his nutrition. What do you think?

  3. Hi Paul! My name is Megan and I am volunteer for NutritionFacts. The suggestions that you made for your friend are really good ones, as increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables (especially these) will significantly increase his fiber intake, which contributes to healthier bowel and more frequent bowel movements. Here is another page with more information for you on bowel movements: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/bowel-movements/. You may also mention to your friend that not eating enough plant foods that are high in fiber and consuming dairy products can contribute to constipation, and making changes to his eating habits may really help him! Here is some info on constipation: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/constipation/. Hope this helps!

  4. Do you have any specific hemorrhoid treatments you recommend?
    I am a vegan so follow a plant based diet but got them anyway :/
    Thanks so much!

  5. Hi, Linda! It could be that something in your diet is irritating your bowels, and causing your stools to be too loose. Keeping track of everything you eat and how your bowels respond can help you identify potential culprits. You may find that increasing the resistant starch in your diet will help with loose stools. A remedy given to me by a pediatrician for my infant daughter 27 years ago was to combine pureed banana and apple, and feed it to her. It works for adults as well, so that is something else you could try. More on resistant starch here: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/resistant-starch/
    I hope that helps!

  6. help!!!

    Help!!! I’m so frustrated!!! I have been doing the WFPB diet for a year now. I was hoping it would help with my chronic constipation and bloating, which I have had for decades now. I was once diagnosed with IBS. I drink water, eat fiber, etc. For a while, before I went WFPB’d, I just decided not to worry about it, thinking it must be ‘normal’ for me. Now I know that’s not true. The more I read about the ‘gut’, and it’s microbiome, about how its connected with literally every part of our bodies, the more concerned I get.I recently read something about, ‘SIBO’, Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth, wondering what your thoughts are on that. I hate going to the Dr. I just get the run around. Any helpful advice would be greatly appreciated. I don’t know what to do. Julie D

  7. I have a big problem that I’m feeling desperate about. I’m not sure who to talk to about it. My six year old daughter is having a couple of #2 accidents in her pants every day. She’s been vegan all her life. Today she came home feeling humiliated because at least 5 friends noticed in the class that she smelled like poo. My heart is broken for her and I don’t know what the issue is. She says she doesn’t know it’s coming on. Is that possible? I’ve seen her poop in the toilet and they’re big and solid. The ones in her pants are a little pasty and looser maybe? Please please help.

  8. Hello Jen,
    Sorry to hear about your daughter’s problem, which is called fecal incontinence or fecal soiling. I am a family doctor and also a volunteer for Dr. Greger on this website. Giving medical advice on-line is always difficult, because I don’t have all the information, nor can I examine your daughter. There are a few important facts you don’t mention. First, has she always had this problem, or did it just recently start? If it’s the former, you need to be concerned about some medical conditions like congenital malformations of the bowel or spine, or a rare condition called Hirschsprung Disease.

    From the way you describe it, though, I am guessing this problem started more recently. If that’s true, then it is more likely due to more common problems. The most common cause is that she might be upset or nervous about something, which leads to the bowel sort of doing a spasm, and stool can leak out fairly quickly. You can ask her if anything is making her upset.

    Another common cause would be if something is making her stools looser than usual, which makes them much harder to control. Has her diet changed recently? If so, stop whatever seems to be causing the loose stools. Some vegan foods which can make the stool a little firmer are: white bread, white rice, bananas, white pasta, and potatoes. You can also try giving her metamucil (water soluble pectin fiber).

    If she has frequent stools which are always loose, and you get really desperate to slow things down, you can try some over-the-counter loperamide (Imodium), 1 mg at a time, and no more than 3 mg per day.

    Another fairly common cause of incontinence is (ironically) chronic constipation, where liquid or soft stool leaks around a bunch of impacted stool. A doctor could diagnose this with a good physical exam. Making an appointment with her pediatrician or family doctor would probably be a good idea.

    I hope this helps.
    Dr.Jon
    PhysicianAssistedWellness.com
    Health Support Volunteer for NutritionFacts.org

    1. Hi Dr. Jon,

      I’ve made an appt with our GP and with our naturopath. This problem has been going on for a long time but in spurts. When we potty trained her at 2 she caught on right away so I don’t believe she can’t do it. We’ve also been undergoing a lot of stress in the past couple of years so I sometimes wonder if she’s stressed by our stress? But she repeatedly tells me the reason he accidents happen is because she can’t feel it coming on and it happens too quickly and she can’t make it on time. If I pay close attention to her diet, she’s not drinking a lot of water each day. She also tries to avoid eating vegetables. We’re making a concerted effort to make sure she eats veggies/fruit first for any of her meals. Does this information help to flesh out her case a bit more? Any help/advice is greatly appreciated.

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