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Frequent bowel movements

Medically reviewed on January 13, 2018.

Definition

There's not a generally accepted clinical definition for frequent bowel movements. Most people consider several bowel movements a day to at least be unusual, particularly if this pattern is a change from what's normal.

If the only change from your usual bowel pattern is the frequency of your bowel movements, an illness is unlikely to be the cause. In the absence of loose, watery stools, abdominal cramping or bloody stool (diarrhea), frequent bowel movements are usually related to your lifestyle.

Causes

If you're having bowel movements more often than usual, chances are you've made some change in your lifestyle. You may, for example, be eating more whole grains, which increases fiber intake.

More-frequent bowel movements could also be related to a mild, self-limiting illness that will take care of itself. If there are no other signs or symptoms, you're probably in good health.

Diseases and other conditions that may cause such signs and symptoms include:

  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn's disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Medication side effects
  • Ulcerative colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if more-frequent bowel movements are also accompanied by any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Changes in the consistency, volume or appearance of your bowel movements, such as repeatedly passing narrow, ribbon-like stools or loose, watery stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood, mucus or pus in your feces

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