I'm a tummy doc – here’s how often you should do a number two (and why it’s never OK to hold on)

FOR some people, going for a number two is the only time of day they get some peace and quiet.

But if you find yourself holding on to your stool until the kids have gone to bed, then you could be putting your health at risk.

One expert has now warned that delaying your toilet time could wreak havoc with your bowels.

Gastroenterologist Professor Martin Veysey said when it comes to how often we poo, it's different for everyone.

The NHS says that most adults can go from anything from a few times a day to once every three to four days.

However, Prof Veysey explained that the frequency of your bowel movements could also be down to the transit time.

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This, he explained, is how long it takes for residue from the food you eat to come out the other end.

Writing in The Conversation, he said that this is important as having problems with urgency such as a sudden, frantic urge to poo, diarrhoea and constipation can all be signs of slow transit.

In order to measure your individual time, he said all you need to do is swallow a handful of raw sweetcorn kernels and then look out for the yellow kernels in your poo.

It should be somewhere between eight and 24 hours, he explained.

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For most people, eating triggers the urge to go and when you're a baby, you have not yet learnt when you can and cannot go – therefore you poop freely into your nappy.

But as we get older, we learn to suppress the 'call to stool', mainly because we don't have the luxury of going at any time we wish to.

The poo guru explained: "Learning to control one’s bowels is an important developmental step, but some of us take it too far; we discover we can sometimes make this urge go away temporarily if we ignore it for a while, because now doesn’t seem like a convenient time."

It's because of this that many people end up suffering with constipation, abdominal pain, unpredictable bowel habits, bloating and wind.


Prof Veysey said that you should never hold onto your poo and that this can be particularly dangerous for those who have a long transit time.

"Getting into the habit of putting it off means the residue from the food you eat stays in your body longer than it should. Your transit time lengthens and your quality of life deteriorates.

"On average, we produce about six tonnes of poo in our lifetimes, composed of water, bacteria, nitrogenous matter, carbohydrates, undigested plant matter and lipids (fats).

"The longer this mix of stuff sits inside us, the more it is prone to fermentation and decomposition.

"This produces not just wind but also chemicals known as metabolites, which then sit in contact with the bowel lining and can be absorbed," he said.

He added that a longer transit time has also been linked to conditions such as bowel cancer, gallstones, colonic polyps and haemorrhoids.

If you want to improve your bowel habits, then luckily, the poo expert said there are plenty of things you can do.

This includes increasing the amount of fibre and fluids in your diet, exercising regularly and being in touch with your colon.

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He added: "Some people are even using cognitive behavioural therapy to improve bowel function.

"Most importantly, when your colon calls, you should listen."

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