A few things happen at the same time every day: your first cup of coffee, the Today show, and, probably, when you poop. And while having a daily poop time might seem like a sign that you're amazing and regular, the scheduled time is actually pretty common. According to Kyle Staller, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, your colon, which helps push poop through your body, has an internal clock of sorts. Most people's colons are quiet during the night while you sleep (which is why you probably rarely get up to go poop during the night), but it has a wake response in the morning. In other words, once you wake up and start your day, your colon does the same.
In the morning your colon will start contracting to move poop along your intestines, getting you ready to have a bowel movement. Eating can also trigger your colon to contract: Your stomach essentially signals to your colon that food is coming in, and that you need to make room for it by pooping soon after you eat. Couple that with coffee, which is a colon stimulant, and most people are primed and ready to poop in the morning after you've had breakfast.
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Some people may poop at the same time every morning, and have another BM around the same time in the afternoon, while others just typically tend to go around the same time every day or every other day. It's not that your body suddenly develops poop, Staller explains, it's just that your colon decides it's the right time to push it out.
That also explains why you don't poop as often when you travel, especially if you head to another time zone. "Your body is expecting to wake up around the same time, but the cues are shifted," Dr. Staller says. "With that, your colonic clock shifts, and it can take a few days to adjust."
Of course, you can't always head to the toilet whenever you want—sometimes you're stuck on the phone, are in a meeting, or there's no bathroom around. Holding it in here and there is fine, Dr. Staller says, but doing it regularly can make you constipated.
But if you find that your typical go time isn't convenient for you, Ashkan Farhadi, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center and director of MemorialCare Medical Group's Digestive Disease Project in Fountain Valley, California, says you can actually train yourself to poop at a time that is more amenable to your schedule. First, he recommends finding a time in your day that you know you'll always be free to hit the bathroom, like 9:00 A.M., when you've had something to eat but before your office gets crazy. Then start going to the bathroom and sitting on the toilet for a few minutes at the same time every day.
"Don't do anything and don't force it or push it," Dr. Farhadi says. "Your goal at first is not to have a bowel movement; it's to condition your colon." After about two weeks, Farhadi says your body will get used to this routine and should be ready to go at the time of your choosing.
Sure, you don't have to train your colon, and you can keep pooping however you like, whenever you like. But if you find that you're regularly getting the urge during a time that kind of sucks for you, it's good to know you have options!
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