Frequent bowel movements is a condition in which a person defecates more often than usual. There are many possible causes, including eating spoiled food, bacterial infection and side effects of a medication. Treatment is usually with an over-the-counter medicine.
Frequent bowel movements is a condition in which a person defecates (eliminates waste from the bowel) more often than usual. There is no “normal” number of bowel movements. Many healthcare providers agree that healthy bowel movement frequency can range from three times a day to three times a week. However, your 'normal' pattern may be different from these numbers. To say that a person’s bowel movements have become more frequent is based on an increase in that person’s usual pattern, not on a standard definition that applies to everyone.
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Frequent bowel movements occur in both males and females of any age.
Some cases of frequent bowel movements last for a short time only and are not a cause for concern. These can be caused by digestive upset from eating spoiled, fatty or spicy food, a food that is not tolerated, or an intestinal “bug” that clears in a day or two.
Other possible causes of frequent bowel movements include an increase in physical exercise, certain medications like antibiotics or metformin, or a change in the diet (more fiber, water, fats or sugars). Bowel movements may return to the usual after the person adapts to these changes or makes modifications to his or her diet.
When the person has other symptoms to go along with the greater number of bowel movements, there may be other causes, including the following:
In cases in which a cause for frequent bowel movements is not known, the doctor will ask you the following:
The doctor will conduct a physical examination and may order blood and stool tests, urinalysis and X-rays.
Mild cases of diarrhea can be treated with an over-the-counter medicine, such as Pepto-Bismol®, Imodium A-D® and Kaopectate®. These are available as liquids or tablets. Follow the instructions on the package.
Note: do not take antidiarrheal medicines if a bacterial infection or parasites are the suspected cause (symptoms include fever or bloody stools). It is important to allow bacteria or parasites to pass through the digestive system.
Contact your doctor if you have frequent bowel movements and any of the following symptoms:
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/05/2018.
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