Real talk: Pooping in the morning feels great—but are BMs in the a.m. simply nice or a necessity? A GI doctor shares the inside scoop on all things morning poop.
Sure, you can poop at any time of the day—but dropping a number two in the morning is something that many people strive for, says gastroenterologist David M. Poppers, MD, PhD, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
“In my practice, when I talk to patients about their bowel habits, it’s quite common for them to tell you that they’re regular in the morning like clockwork,” says Dr. Poppers. “And they enjoy it as part of their morning, too. They feel better, lighter, and ready to start their day.”
But have you ever wondered why it’s so common to poop in the morning, or if it’s essential to do so every day? Keep reading for answers and tips to get into your morning poop groove.
Should You Poop Every Morning?
As satisfying as it can be, pooping in the morning isn’t absolutely necessary health-wise. However, it makes sense if a morning poop is a regular part of your routine. Here’s why:
- Your colon is getting going again. Last night, you ate your last meal or snack, went to bed, and spent the overnight period in a rest-and-digest phase. Now, it’s the next morning and your body is ready to clear itself out. “There’s evidence that there’s more colonic contraction in the first hour of wakefulness. It’s fairly common for the waking-up cycle to be associated with gastrointestinal motility,” says Dr. Poppers. (‘Motility’ means that things are moving, which may send you straight to the bathroom.)
- Morning habits are compatible with bowel movements. Whether you wake up and have some water, tea, or coffee, liquid itself encourages a BM. Plus, there’s caffeine in caffeinated teas and coffee, which stimulate colonic contractions, according to Dr. Poppers. Likewise, eating a meal (in this case, breakfast) does the same. Food and bevs tend to move things along, giving you that gotta-go feeling.
- You’re moving around. Your colon is a muscular tube, and moving your muscles with morning activity—walking around, hopping on the stationary bike, going for a run—will also get the GI tract going.
Then, there’s the fact that once you get into a routine, your body will expect things to happen at certain times of the day. That itself will reinforce the habit, says Dr. Poppers. After all, there’s a strong connection between your brain and gut. “You might feel the most comfortable having a bowel movement at home rather than at work or school, and the body learns that over time,” he explains.
5 Tips to Facilitate Morning Poops
Again, while it’s normal to poop every morning, there’s no need to worry if you pass BMs later in the day, so long as your digestion stays regular. But in case pooping in the morning is a goal of yours—out of convenience or because it works best for your schedule—there are several things you can do to both stay regular and shift into a good routine.
1. Eat Enough Fiber
There are two kinds of fiber—insoluble and soluble—and both play a role in properly formed stools that are easy-peasy to pass. Soluble fiber pulls in water and gels up during digestion (for comfortable poops), while insoluble speeds up the movement of food through the GI tract and bulks up your stool, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Fiber-rich foods include oats, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Dr. Poppers advises his patients to eat 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily. (Another problem with eating too many heavily processed foods, which tend to be lower in fiber, is that they fill you up, leaving less room for good-for-you, fiber-packed fare.)
2. Sip More H2O
You can get water via liquids and water-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups—even oatmeal. Still, prioritize hydrating with H2O. Water is the best liquid to drink, says Dr. Poppers, and he recommends aiming for two liters (about 68 ounces) of water per day.
Note: It’s important drink more water as you add more fiber into your diet. Doing so will help to move things along while minimizing digestive discomfort, and can result in that longed-for morning poop.
3. Stay Active
We don’t have to tell you that enduring a long commute and sitting at a desk all day is severely cutting into active time… and that’s not great for your health for a number of reasons. Physical activity stimulates the urge to go, so make sure you’re getting up and on your feet throughout the day. Take a 10-minute walk after lunch or dinner, stand up throughout the day, do a 7-minute app workout in the afternoon, or make that post-work yoga class non-negotiable.
4. Create the Routine
“You can train your body and brain in both good and not-so-good ways,” says Dr. Poppers. If you want to have morning poops, fit some toilet time into your normal morning routine, whenever it makes the most sense for you. “For a lot of people, it becomes routine and through biofeedback, your body learns that it’s morning and it’s time to eliminate,” he says.
If you have to go, go—but if you don’t, get off the toilet. “Spending 30 or 40 minutes sitting there is not productive,” Dr. Poppers says.
5. Get Situated for Success
One of the best tools you can use is a toilet stool. Dr. Poppers explains that sitting on the toilet with your legs lifted into a squat position sets you up in a more anatomically appropriate position that helps your body pass stool.
How to Tell If Your Poops Are “Normal”
Dr. Poppers doesn’t like to attach an exact “right” number to the number of times you should go per day or week (or when). What’s most important is knowing what your normal baseline habits are and paying attention to any changes and new digestive discomfort. With that said, constipation is considered having fewer than three bowel movements per week, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
You can also take a look at the Bristol Stool Chart to analyze your stool consistency to see if it’s on the mark, too. Smooth, soft, and sausage-like is an ideal to aim for.
If your current normal-for-you BM schedule is consistent and you don’t have any “red flag” symptoms—such as abdominal pain or distention, unintentional weight loss, or rectal bleeding—then you don’t need to try to change things up.
Also, if you typically pass morning poops but are now dealing with uncomfortable GI symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re A-okay just because you’re regular. Dr. Poppers recommends seeing your doc for an evaluation if your poop pattern changes or you experience the symptoms mentioned above. Otherwise, just go with the flow.