How To Have Healthy & Normal Poops, According To Nutrition Experts
The rumors are true: Everybody poops. However, not all digestive tracts operate at the same speed. Some people go to the bathroom easier than others, and if you struggle to get on a regular schedule, your dietary habits could be the culprit.
There are many benefits to eating a balanced diet, but when it comes to getting things moving, dietary fiber will help you maintain normal, healthy poops.
But first, what is fiber?
Fiber is a unique complex carbohydrate (found exclusively in plants) that is not digested by the human body. So it passes through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract relatively unscathed.
Now, fiber is often classified as soluble or insoluble fiber—but most fibrous foods have a combination of both.
Types of fiber
Soluble fiber is found in nuts and seeds; fruits like apples, bananas, and berries; and in legumes and certain grains, like oat bran and barley. Insoluble fiber is in vegetables, wheat, and other whole grains. Both aid in healthy digestion but play different roles in the process.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not dissolve—it stays intact as it moves through the digestive system. While, like soluble fiber, it ushers out toxins and bad cholesterol, registered dietitian Ella Davar, R.D., CDN, CHC tells mindbodygreen that it also speeds up digestion.
How does fiber help you poop?
First and foremost, fiber does help you poop by adding bulk to your stools and regulating the gut transit time (aka how long it takes for food to pass) and consistency.
“Both types of fiber are essential for gut health, but the difference [between soluble and insoluble fiber] is that the insoluble fiber speeds the passage of foods through the stomach and intestines and adds bulk to the stool,” Davar explains.
The more water in the stool, the easier it passes.
And if your stool is very loose or watery, fiber can add volume to it and give it a better shape. And this is where soluble fibers bulking actions and gel-like consistency come in.
Other benefits of fiber
- The gut microbiome: See, bacteria in the colon feed off of fermentable soluble fibers—like legumes (e.g., beans)—and create gut-healthy metabolites known as short-chain fatty (SCFAs)1, per the Journal of Lipid Research. These SCFAs then aid in sustaining energy levels, promoting a healthy inflammatory response2, and regulating blood sugar levels.
- Satiety: Fiber also helps you feel fuller for longer. A 2018 systematic review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition explored how dietary fat and fiber impact satiety. It found that because fiber slows down the absorption of certain nutrients (specifically fats), it prolongs feelings of satiety3. By slowing down the digestion of nutrients like carbohydrates, fiber also impacts how these nutrients are absorbed, resulting in steady blood sugar and insulin levels4, according to a 2018 review from The Journal of Nutrition.
- Heart health: Research also suggests those who eat a fiber-rich diet are also less likely to have long-term heart health issues. In a 2019 Lancet meta-analysis that reviewed over 240 studies and clinical trials on the subject, scientists found that eating a high-fiber diet (i.e., a daily intake of 25 to 29 grams) showed a 15% to 30% decrease5 in cardiovascular and cardiometabolic health concerns, as well as healthier body composition, systolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol levels than individuals following a low-fiber diet.
Recommended fiber dosage
That said, this is just an estimate and everybody is different; some digestive tracts require more fiber than others, and a “normal” bowel movement for your body might look slightly different than someone else’s “normal” stool. To determine how much fiber is sufficient to help you poop better, speak with a gastroenterologist (or other healthcare professional) for a personal assessment.
A fiber supplement can help you meet that recommendation
Two things are for sure: Fiber is a necessary (essential nutrient, remember!) part of a well-rounded, everyday diet, so you want to meet your goals to stay regular. Secondly, most everyone can improve in the fiber department. By a lot. You see, 95% of Americans fail to achieve their baseline fiber needs from diet alone.
It’s a USDA-certified organic vegan blend of soluble, insoluble, and prebiotic plant fibers sourced from ingredients like organic guar beans, mushrooms, and kiwifruit. Just one scoop yields a solid six grams of clean, functional fiber (a rich source!).
According to Davar, the best time to take fiber supplements is in the morning, after breakfast, to help fire up your digestion early in the day.* Although, the best time to take your fiber addition is any time you’ll remember! With any new fiber regimen, you’ll also want to start low and go slow to avoid GI complaints.
Fiber supplements cannot and should not take the place of eating high-fiber foods. Rather it can help ensure you're reaching your daily fiber goals in a targeted way (i.e. intentionally trying to consume more soluble vs. insoluble fiber).
Foods high in fiber
Be sure to include plenty of high-fiber foods to help nurture the gut and keep things moving along; you just have to find ones you enjoy eating and can regularly incorporate into your diet. As a golden rule, Davar encourages clients to choose organic, non-GMO, quality fiber-rich food sources as often as possible.
Switch up your fiber choices day-to-day (or week-to-week) to make sure you're getting a variety of nutrients.
Seeds high in fiber
Nuts high in fiber
Grains high in fiber
Beans high in fiber
Fruit high in fiber
Vegetables high in fiber
Safety and side effects
According to Davar, when consumed in a natural form (i.e. via fruits, vegetables, and other whole-food sources), “there is no such thing as too much fiber.” There is, however, such a thing as too much fiber via supplementation.
“Fiber supplements are on the rise, and there is a possibility of nutrient absorption issues and digestive side effects, like bloating,” explains Davar.
To avoid these unwanted side effects, Davar stresses that moderation is key and advises mindbodygreen readers to consume ”no more than 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day” in supplemental form, although technically, there’s no upper limit established per the science.
She points to this specific ceiling for someone with digestive health concerns, as Davar notes a high-fiber diet may create a softer stool and/or bloating in some individuals.
Any time you increase your fiber intake (from foods or from supplements), do so slowly to help your body adjust. Also up your water intake, which will aid in forming that desirable stool consistency.
Does fiber help you poop easier?
In a word, yes. Davar notes that high-fiber vegetables, especially, serve as bulk to keep things moving along. Of course, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are also stellar fiber sources and contribute to gut health and poops.
Does fiber make your poop hard or soft?
“That depends on one's gut microbiome and hydration levels,” Davar explains. “For healthy individuals, a high-fiber diet helps to bulk up the stool, and given proper levels of hydration (this is very important, especially when supplementing!), makes the passing very easy.”*
How long does fiber take to make you poop?
According to food science and nutrition professor at the University of Minnesota Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., RDN, food takes about 48 hours to move through your body. “Since fiber works by binding water, it will take at least a day for fiber to work,” she explains. A daily nutrition pattern rich in fiber is the goal, to achieve sufficiency in this nutrient day after day.
There are many benefits to incorporating more fiber into your diet, but the fact that fiber promotes regularity and helps you poop easier might just top them all. Eating fiber-rich foods like veggies, fruits, grains, and legumes can help you get on a regular bathroom schedule, and to synergize those efforts, consider incorporating a high-quality, targeted fiber supplement like mbg’s organic fiber potency+.*
Julia Guerra is a health and wellness writer reporting for mindbodygreen, Elite Daily, and INSIDER. Formerly the beauty editor for BestProducts.com, she's contributed to Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, PopSugar, and more. A book worm and fitness enthusiast, her happiest moments are spent with her husband, family, sipping tea, and cuddling with her Tabby cat, Aria.