Having regular bowel movements is an important part of our overall health—so much so that even the occasional bout of constipation can disrupt our quality of life.
For many people, feeling constipated can cause embarrassment, discomfort, and sometimes pain.
Still, constipation is fairly common, affecting an estimated 2.5 million Americans per year.
Constipation is generally defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week.
It can also cause hard or lumpy stools, a sensation of a blockage in your colon, or straining during bowel movements.
Occasional constipation, or constipation that lasts for several days or up to several weeks, will affect most people at some point in their lifetime.
Thankfully, there are several ways to effectively treat constipation, some of which can be done at home.
Understanding the signs of constipation and which remedies work best for your body can help you to learn when to manage the condition alone and when you may want to speak with a medical professional for help.
Ways To Poop Faster
Struggling with constipation can be frustrating, but there are several options that can help your body have a healthy bowel movement.
Relaxation and posture
Believe it or not, how you position your body on the toilet can have an impact on the ease and success of your bowel movements.
Studies show that sitting with your feet on a defecation posture medication device (like a footstool) can encourage a squatting position and help to reduce straining, as well as better evacuate your bowels.
Other posture modifications that can support easy and successful bowel movements include:
- Resting your forearms on your thighs
- Leaning forward
- Relaxing your stomach, letting it bulge out
- Straightening your spine
Research also suggests that relaxation techniques like self-massage and self-acupressure can help to improve bowel function.
In one trial, people who massaged their perineum with their index and pointer fingers experienced better bowel functions and constipation-related quality of life after just four weeks.
Eat food with high fiber
In many cases, bouts of mild constipation can be caused by a lack of fiber in your diet.
If you suspect your constipation may be a result of your diet, start by gradually increasing your fiber intake by including several high-fiber foods in your daily diet, such as:
- Fruits (dried fruits can be especially high in fiber)
- Whole grains, cereals, and bread
- Flax seeds
Increasing your fiber intake will help to increase the weight and water content of stool and speed up its movement through your digestive tract, which can help with bowel movements.
However, if you’re starting from a current low-fiber diet, it’s important to increase fiber intake slowly to avoid unwanted side effects like gassiness and bloating.
Take fiber supplements
Fiber supplements are a form of laxatives called bulk-forming laxatives.
Bulk-forming laxatives work by drawing water into stool and making it easier to pass.
Though generally safe to use, they can take anywhere between 12 hours to several days to take effect.
Mild side effects are possible when taking fiber supplements, including gas and bloating.
Examples of fiber supplements include:
- Psyllium (Metamucil)
- Methylcellulose (Citrucel)
Many people associate drinking coffee with its ability to stimulate the urge to have a bowel movement. The caffeine in coffee is known to stimulate colon motility in some people.
In fact, results from one survey found that drinking coffee increased bowel motility or the movement of the bowels in most responders.
However, it’s important to note that drinking too much caffeine throughout the day can lead to dehydration, which can make constipation worse.
Some cases of constipation can be brought on by an imbalance of bacteria in the gut.
Probiotic foods and supplements can help to restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
Keep in mind that this treatment option will not work immediately.
It can take some time to restore the balance in the gut when taking probiotics.
Try a prescription laxative
When other remedies don’t work to relieve your constipation, there are several types of laxatives that may help, some of which are available over-the-counter (OTC) and some of which are only available via prescription.
In most cases, your provider will likely recommend an OTC laxative as a first-line treatment.
However, people with chronic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may benefit from prescription laxatives.
Examples of prescription constipation medications include:
- Linaclotide (Linzess)
- Plecanatide (Trulance)
- Lubiprostone (Amitiza)
- Methylnaltrexone (Relistor)
- Naloxegol (Movantik)
- Naldemedine (Symproic)
Importantly, prescription constipation medicines won’t provide immediate relief. Instead, they help the right individuals to have more frequent bowel movements on a regular basis.
Don’t Force Poop Out
When you’re feeling constipated, you may be compelled to “force” your stools out.
However, this can cause you to strain the architecture of your pelvic floor, including blood vessels, nerves and muscles, which can cause hemorrhoids and have a damaging effect on your long-term bowel habits.
Instead, it’s important to relax and only go to the bathroom when you feel the “urge.”
Once on the toilet, if the feeling or urge to have a bowel movement passes, get up and continue with your day.
Avoiding long periods on the toilet while reading or looking at your phone can also help to retrain your muscles to make efficient use of your time.
How Long Should It Take To Poop?
A healthy bowel movement is one that is easily passed, requires little straining, and takes somewhere between 30 seconds to 2 minutes to complete.
If your bowel movements are difficult, painful, or take several minutes or longer to complete, you may be constipated.
How Often Should You Poop?
A “normal” bowel movement frequency can vary from individual to individual, but a healthy bowel movement schedule can range from as many as three times per day to as few as four times per week.
If you’re having fewer than three bowel movements per week, you’re likely constipated.
When To See a Medical Provider
Occasional constipation can happen to anyone, but if you’re experiencing chronic or painful constipation that won’t go away, it’s important to reach out to your provider for help.
It’s also important to reach out to your provider as soon as possible if you experience any of the following more severe symptoms:
- Blood in stool
- Inability to pass gas
- Black, tarry stools
- Slow reflexes
- Severe, persistent stomach pain
How K Health Can Help
Did you know you can get affordable primary health care with the K Health app?
Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and, if needed, text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
American Gastroenterological Association Technical Review on Constipation. (2014).
Bowel retraining. (2020).
Bowel Retraining: Strategies for Establishing Bowel Control.
Concerned About Constipation? (2013).
Effect of coffee on distal colon function. (1990).
Effect of Perineal Self-Acupressure on Constipation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. (2015).
Implementation of a Defecation Posture Modification Device. (2019).
Poor Bowel Control. (2021).
Probiotics: What You Need To Know. (2019).
Treatment for Constipation. (2018).