Are you worried that you are not having bowel movements frequently enough? Or wondering whether you’re pooping, to put it not-so-delicately, more often than is healthy?

The truth is, the range of what’s considered normal for an individual is pretty wide, encompassing anywhere from three poops per day to three in a week. It depends on what’s known as “bowel transit time,” which refers to how quickly (or slowly) waste matter passes through the gastrointestinal tract.

Most of the time, our bowel habits remain fairly constant and reasonably predictable. But certain actions and situations sometimes arise that can derail that predictability and cause irregularity, such as a change in your diet or the use of medications such as antidepressants; painkillers; and various heart medications, notably beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and statins. Antacids and dietary supplements that contain calcium can have an effect on how often you need to poop as well.

An alteration in your schedule–such as going on a vacation—can also throw off your poop routine. So can diabetes, as well as health issues that limit your mobility.  

If you notice changes in your typical bowel movement frequency, you can take a little time to see whether it normalizes on its own. But if you don’t find yourself back on your normal poop schedule within a few weeks, it’s wise to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Any change in bowel habits that lasts more than a few weeks should be brought to his or her attention; it may be a signal of an underlying health problem that requires evaluation and/or treatment.

And be aware that getting physical activity, striving to include fiber-rich foods (these include fruits and vegetables, beans, and whole grains such as brown rice) in your diet, and drinking plenty of fluids every day can be very helpful in keeping you (and your poop schedule) regular