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Health: true or false?

Are you unhealthy if you don’t move your bowels every day? Hong Kong doctor says no

If your general health is good, there’s no need to be concerned if you go to the toilet more or less often than other people

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 5:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 5:50pm

Are you unhealthy if you don’t have a bowel movement daily?

The short answer: No

If you’ve ever worried that your digestive system might not be quite right because your bowel movements aren’t as regular as your friends’, don’t fret. As long as you’re generally healthy, there is no such thing as a normal number when it comes to the frequency of going to the toilet.

“It really varies from person to person,” says Dr Luk Yiu Wing, a specialist in gastroenterology at The London Medical Clinic in Central. “Most people move their bowels once a day, usually after waking up. However, there are many people who have bowel movements twice, and even three or four times, a day. On the other hand, there are people who go once every other day or once every two to four days.

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“As long as you don’t have any underlying medical issues, I’d say that there’s no right or healthy number of times to move your bowels. Going twice a day doesn’t necessarily mean that your digestive system is healthier than that of someone who only goes twice a week.”

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However, a change in your bowel habits or stools should be cause for concern. Luk says that if you have been moving your bowels for a certain number of times every week for many years, but suddenly have difficulty going or find that you’re going more often than usual, then you should seek medical help. “If the change in your bowel habits persists for a few weeks, and especially if you are over the age of 50, it’s important to rule out the possibility of colon cancer.”

Of course, constipation is a serious problem for many of us, with our consumption of processed foods that lack dietary fibre and our sedentary lifestyles. But Luk says that if your bowel movements have always been regular, and you now suffer from constipation coupled with abdominal discomfort, or if you pass hard stools, or experience rectal bleeding or anal pain when you attempt to move your bowels, then you should see a doctor too, to get the problem investigated.

For a healthier digestive system, Luk suggests increasing your intake of dietary fibre, in the form of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds; exercising more often, to help stimulate your metabolism; increasing your fluid intake; and finding ways to manage your stress levels, as stress is a known risk factor for constipation. “These are the main modifications to your diet and lifestyle that you can make to prevent constipation and improve the health of your bowels.”