Health Column: Answers to common questions about No. 2

Everybody gets to the point when they have to make “doo.”

For some, it’s once, maybe twice a day; but for others, it could be just once or twice a week.

It’s not often discussed — as it’s a bit taboo to talk about poop — but it’s probably safe to say that many have wondered if their bowel movements are normal. 

“I think people are very much fixated on their bowels,” said Dr. Joseph Duva, a gastroenterologist with both Eastern Long Island Hospital and Peconic Bay Medical Center.

I sought Dr. Duva’s help for answers to what he feels are the most common queries people have about going the infamous “number two.”

Dr. Duva said the question he hears most often is, “How often should I poop?” His answer: “Whatever you feel comfortable with and is normal for you.

“You don’t have to go every day, as long as you feel comfortable.”

But, he said, it’s important to pay attention to changes in one’s normal patterns — whether it be in frequency, color or consistency — because change may signal a health issue.

“If you’re going every day and now you’re going once a week, that’s a red flag that does deserve some looking into,” he said.

Changes in color are not all that important unless stool becomes black, he explained, which could indicate bleeding in the intestinal tract.

He noted that artificial coloring can also affect stool color, sometimes turning it blue or purple.

The other most common question, he said, is about odor.

“When it comes to smell, people get nervous,” he said. “But poop is supposed to smell.”

The intestines contain trillions of bacteria that aid in digestion, which contribute to the smell, he explained.

“Smelly stool is a good sign that the healthy bacteria is working,” he said.

With the public’s most pressing poop questions answered, Dr. Duva offered up this last piece of advice.

“When nature calls, you should really heed that call,” he said. “It’s OK to hold it a little bit, but if you continue to suppress that feeling, you’re basically retraining your body not to go.”

He said those who hold on too long — which often includes people whose careers don’t often place them next to a bathroom — could later develop issues with constipation.

The keys to keeping your bowels on track, he said, are a heathy diet that is high in fiber, drinking plenty of fluids and getting regular exercise.

Miller_HeadshotGot a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at [email protected].