You Can Poop Daily & Still Be Constipated, Says A Gastroenterologist

mbg Intern By Olivia Giacomo
mbg Intern
Olivia Giacomo is a mindbodygreen intern and a student at Georgetown University studying French and Spanish. She has previously written for LLM Law Review.
Toilet Tissue Holder In White Tiled Bathroom

Constipation: a word that elicits universal frustration. When you hear the term "constipated," you might imagine a scenario in which you can't go, no matter how hard you try. However, according to gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., MSCI, the reality can be much more complicated: "You could poop every day and be constipated," he shares on the mindbodygreen podcast.

How is this possible? Below, he explains why daily bowel movements don't necessarily indicate smooth sailing—and what to do about it.

How can you poop every day and be constipated?

According to Dr. B, you must ask yourself a key question after you go: Do you feel completely empty? After all, if you pass 70% of waste but retain 30%, that remainder begins to add up in your system. After a few days of this buildup, you can experience blockage and become super constipated. 

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But it's not only the amount you pass; it's the characteristics of the bowel movement itself. "The most severe forms of constipation that I come across are the patients who actually have diarrhea because what they have is overflow," he says. "They basically have a comb of impacted stool that is backing up. For lack of a better expression, they have a logjam."

The solid excrement is backed up behind this logjam, while the liquid is able to sneak through the cracks and come through as diarrhea. So just because you're going (and going a lot), doesn't mean you're necessarily emptying out all the waste; those irregular bowel movements could be signs of a much larger logjam happening inside.

So how can people find relief? Bulsiewicz's answer may sound counterintuitive: "The solution to that diarrhea is to actually move their bowels more," he says. "If you can get rid of that logjam, [you] can get back to normal." Even if you're experiencing some erratic bowel movements at the moment, you might want to find ways to go more. (Good news: You can discover ways to make yourself poop here.)

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The takeaway.

Despite how we typically characterize constipation, the truth is that daily bowel movements aren’t enough to put you in the clear. What's most important is the satisfying feeling of emptiness after a trip to the bathroom, and when it comes to relief, you may actually need to have more bowel movements, not fewer.

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