Everybody poops—it’s a simple fact of life. Maybe you usually go right when you get up or an hour after you have coffee in the morning, or you regularly take a mid-afternoon poo. Whatever it is, you probably have some kind of routine. So it’s completely understandable that you’d get a bit freaked out when you suddenly start going more.
While going number-two more than usual can be a sign that something is off, it’s not usually a reason for otherwise healthy young women to freak out, says Kyle Staller, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Probably one of the most common things would be dietary intolerances—you ate something that doesn’t agree with you,” says Staller. This is especially true if you have a change for a few days and then it goes back to normal. Beyond that, these are the biggest reasons why your two-a-days may suddenly have increased:
One of the most common reasons why young women start pooping more is because they increased their fiber intake, says Rudy Bedford, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. So, if you suddenly started pooping more around the time you started adding more vegetables to your diet, that’s likely why.
Viral and bacterial infections can cause excessive pooping and diarrhea, says Staller. While this is normal, if you have bloody poop or a fever with it, you should get it checked out.
Stepping up your exercise routine can make you go more than usual, says Bedford. Here’s why: Exercise increases muscle contractions in your colon, working number two out of your body faster than it did before. That’s why doctors may encourage you to work out more if you’re constipated.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is no joke, and Staller says it’s common in young women. The condition, an intestinal disorder that causes pain in your stomach, gas, and cramping, can also make you poop a lot. “The classic patient gets sudden abdominal pain and cramping associated with constipation or diarrhea,” says Staller.
For some people, stress is a poop trigger. “Many people have more loose bowel movements when they’re under stress,” says Staller.
Many women who are just about to get their periods or already have their periods will have looser or more frequent BMs. It’s likely due to a shift in hormones around your cycle (specifically progesterone), and is “very normal,” says Staller.
o, how can you know if your sudden increase in pooping is cause for concern? Bedford says abdominal pain, bloody stool, and mucus in your poop are clues that something isn’t right, and you should see a doctor.
Staller says the way it impacts your life is also a big tip-off. If you really don’t give it another thought, you’re probably fine. But if you find that you’re changing your routine or avoiding some social situations because you’re worried about pooping, you need to see a doctor. “I see plenty of young women who are worried about being on dates,” says Staller. “If it’s a common thing where you’re always on the lookout for a bathroom, you should go and get evaluated.”