Let's just put it out there: There's nothing better than a good poop. As for what constitutes a "normal" number two routine...well, that depends. Healthy poop habits exist on a sliding scale, so what's considered a normal frequency for you might not cut it for someone else. Much like your fingerprint (you know, only gross), your bowel patterns are unique to you.
The average person poops about once a day, but anything in the range of three times a day to once every three days is considered normal, says Pradeep Kumar, M.D., gastroenterologist at Austin Gastroenterology in Texas. But if your poop habits don't fall within this range, don't fret: It's not necessarily cause for alarm, says Kumar. What matters is that you're consistent within your own routine.
Exactly how often you chill on the porcelain throne is influenced by several factors, the first of which is genetics, says Kumar. For example, your body's internal programming could mean the difference between guzzling your morning coffee without a hitch—or it shooting through you like a laser beam.
Your eating habits also play a huge role, especially your fiber and water intake. As food takes the scenic route through your colon, dietary fiber bulks up your stool and keeps it soft, while water solidifies it and makes it easy to pass. Not enough of either can lead to less frequent number two sessions, as well as constipation. A good way to stay regular is to drink plenty of fluids and score 25 grams of soluble fiber daily, says Kumar, which you can grab through noshing on fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
How often you break a sweat also plays a role. Skimping on exercise can lead to slower motility in the gut (translation: less pooping), says Lawrence Brandt, M.D., gastroenterologist at Montefiore Health System in New York. Exercising on the reg increases muscle activity in your intestines, which gives your body's eject button a serious boost.
Another annoying-yet-normal thing that changes your poop pattern is your period, says Brandt. Some women produce more prostaglandins than others—the hormone that triggers your uterus to expel waste—and the excess hormones may trigger your bowels instead. (Yay?) Nix the discomfort by popping an ibuprophen, which will "help regulate the change in circulating chemicals that occur with the menstrual cycle," says Brandt.
Suddenly using the bathroom more (or less) frequently is usually a sign that you've switched something up in your diet or lifestyle, which is why you might find you're less regular on weekends or vacay—or too regular after eating Mexican. But if there's a sudden change in your poop pattern with no rhyme or reason, it could be a sign that something's going on down yonder, says Kumar, who recommends checking in with your doc if the change persists for over four weeks. When it doubt, go with your butt. (Get it?)