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What Is A Normal Bowel Movement?

* If you eat three meals a day, you should have three bowel movements per day. If you eat two meals a day, you should have two bowel movements per day.

* The bowel movement should start naturally, without any straining or pushing.

* A normal bowel movement occurs rather quickly, taking no more than about five minutes. Having books in the bathroom is a clue that it's been taking way too long.

* In a normal bowel movement, the stool should have a diameter which is half the width of your wrists. It should not be so large it is hard to pass or causes pain or bleeding of the rectum or hemorrhoids. It should not be long and stringy, or pencil-thin. It should not be composed of small and hard balls.

* The stool should be about the same consistency (density or "thickness") as regular toothpaste squeezed from a tube. It should not be soft and watery. It should not be hard and compacted, nor cause the toilet to become plugged up.

* The stool should be a medium brown colour and should not contain dark material from old feces (or black material which may indicate bleeding in the upper GI tract or stomach). But it may be slightly colored from certain kinds of foods you recently ate, such as grapes or beets or very dark green vegetables. It should not be yellow or maroon (like burgundy wine) or gray.

* The stool should not have a foul smell if it is entirely composed of the waste from food which was consumed less than 24 hours ago.

* If you pass gas it should not have a foul smell. Smelly farts may indicate that old, decaying fecal matter is stuck to the walls of your intestines.

* The stool should float in the toilet water if everything in it is the waste material from food that has been properly digested. Stool that has become too compacted, hard and dense due to constipation will usually sink. (Note that unhealthy stool that contains too much unabsorbed fat may also float.)

* The stool should not soil the toilet paper, but should pass out easily and be cut off easily and cleanly when the anal sphincter closes.

* The stool should not contain a lot of mucus. There should not be any small or large worms or other parasites visible inside or near to the stool.

If your bowel movements do not meet ALL the above criteria for a normal bowel movement, then you should STOP thinking that yours are "normal", that you are healthy, or that your colon and small intestine are in good health.