How Long Can You Go Without Pooping

Holding in your stool also “teaches” your body that pooping isn’t a priority. This can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction, which is the inability to relax and coordinate your butt muscles to have a bowel movement. Cleveland Clinic reports that up to half of people with severe constipation have pelvic floor dysfunction.

How Long Can You Actually Go Without Pooping?

There are few things in life that offer more relief than dropping a massive dump. But sometimes you have to hang up when nature calls. Perhaps you’re sharing a toilet with your significant other’s parents, or maybe you’re on a road trip with no rest stop in sight.

Now you’re wondering: How long can I go without pooping before my body rebels against me?

Shockingly, one woman went 45 days without pooping (and paid the price in the hospital). But as a rule of thumb, going five or more days without pooping can cause serious health issues that are way worse than stomach pain. But the answer isn’t always straightforward. Some DUDES are way more sensitive to constipation than others.

Read on to learn how long you can safely go without pooping, what happens when you hold it in, and how to start an emergency evacuation of your bowels if you enter the danger zone.

How Long Can You Go Without Pooping?

Generally speaking, you can go about five days without pooping before you run into the risk of serious health issues like fecal impaction, hemorrhoids, or a bowel perforation. That said, there isn’t a magic number of days to set a countdown for.

Every DUDE has different bowel habits, depending on your diet, genetics, and gut microbiome. However, most doctors agree healthy people poop somewhere between three times a day to three times a week. If you cross that upper threshold and have fewer than three bowel movements in a single week, you’re getting into the danger zone.

So if you’re staying with your in-laws for the weekend and you’re terrified of clogging the toilet or stinking up the bathroom, you’re allowed to hold it in. Just know that’s not ideal for your gut or your butt.

What Happens If You Don’t Poop?

Your body is designed to poop on a consistent schedule, so holding it in for longer than you’re used to can cause gut health issues—whether you’re plugging yourself up on purpose or not.

1. Abdominal Pain

The most obvious problem with holding in your poop is the most obvious: abdominal pain. Blocking a bowel movement causes a buildup of gas in your gut, which causes cramping, bloating, and sense of fullness.

2. Hard Stool That’s Even Harder to Pass

If you manage to hold in your poop for more than a few hours, the urge to crap will probably go away. But that doesn’t mean your feces have magically disappeared into the ether of your digestive system.

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The longer you hold in your poop, the harder it gets. That’s because your colon absorbs the water that normally makes your stool soft and easy to push out. The result is hard stool which comes out as pebble poop (if you’re lucky to poop at all).

3. Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Holding in your stool also “teaches” your body that pooping isn’t a priority. This can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction, which is the inability to relax and coordinate your butt muscles to have a bowel movement. Cleveland Clinic reports that up to half of people with severe constipation have pelvic floor dysfunction.

Think of it like working out: the more times you skip the gym, the harder it is to get back into the groove.

4. Fecal Impaction

If you really push the limits of constipation, you can end up with fecal impaction: a serious medical condition where a big lump of dry poop gets packed so tightly into your rectum that you can’t push it out on your own. Most people can’t fix fecal impaction on their own; it requires a doctor’s visit to break down the blockage so the poop can work its way out.

The most severe cases of fecal impaction lead to bowel perforation, which is when a hole forms in the wall of the small intestine or colon. In rare cases, fecal impaction can actually kill you.

Bottom line: don’t hold in your poop if you don’t have to—the stakes are too high.

Is It Normal Not to Poop Every Day?

It’s normal to experience constipation every once in a while, so don’t freak out if you skip your daily deuce once in a while. There are countless causes of constipation, but here are some of the most common ones:

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not eating enough fiber
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Stress (especially from traveling)
  • Gastrointestinal health conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome

Chronic constipation (pooping fewer than three times per week) is a red flag that warrants help from a gastroenterologist.

What To Do If You Haven’t Pooped In 5+ Days

If you haven’t pooped in five days, don’t mess around. The fastest way to make yourself poop is with a laxative or stool softener, which you can get at your local drugstore. You’ll have the option to choose between an oral treatment or a suppository which goes up your butt (we recommend the former, for obvious reasons).

If over-the-counter treatment options don’t work, get in touch with your healthcare provider ASAP. Your doctor may use an enema, which is a special fluid inserted into the rectum to loosen any impacted stool.

The best way to beat constipation is to stay ahead of it. You can do that by sticking to a few simple tips:

  1. Drink plenty of water
  2. Do some kind of physical activity every day
  3. Eat high-fiber foods like whole grains, prunes, beans, or fiber supplements

Don’t Go More Than a Day Without DUDE Wipes

Even if you take a hiatus from the porcelain throne, you’re not exempt from wiping your ass. DUDES are nasty beasts, and we need to go in for a maintenance wipe at least once a day to eliminate butt stank and sanitize our third pits.

That’s where DUDE Flushable Wipes come in. They’re bigger than baby wipes, way softer than toilet paper, and infused with aloe and vitamin E to sooth your butt, balls, armpits, or any other bodily crevice.

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What Happens If You Don’t Poop for 40 Days?

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A man in England is refusing to poop, allegedly to conceal evidence of drug dealing.

The police officers who arrested the 24-year-old on Jan. 17 said they saw him swallowing what appeared to be drugs. According to the BBC, prosecutors now say he’s refusing to eat very much in order to prevent himself from pooping out the evidence. He’s allegedly gone 43 days without evacuating his bowels.

So what happens when you refuse to poop? Not usually anything good, according to gastroenterologist Ian Lustbader of New York University Langone Health.

“Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim and colons gotta poop,” Lustbader told Live Science. [5 Things Your Poop Says About Your Health]

Fecal retention

Voluntarily withholding stool for long periods of time is rare, Lustbader said. Typically, people with chronic constipation or bowel-motility problems desperately want to defecate. (Bowel motility refers to how well the digestive system can move contents through it.) If they’re eating and not pooping, the colon can become dangerously distended, a condition called “megacolon.” The feces can become hard and impacted, and the bowel can actually rupture. According to the book “Management of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders in Children: Biopsychosocial Concepts for Clinical Practice (opens in new tab) ” (Springer, 2014), the colon can grow so large that it can extend up into the rib cage.

It’s not clear what the world record for not pooping is, but the book on gastrointestinal disorders includes an abdominal X-ray of a 13-year-old with “functional fecal retention syndrome” who could not recall pooping in the past year. This syndrome, mostly seen in children, occurs when a patient becomes frightened of pooping, perhaps because past attempts have been painful. The patient tightens the pelvic muscles and buttocks when the urge to defecate strikes. Small amounts of liquid feces may sneak past the growing mass of solid stool, which becomes larger and more potentially painful to pass by the day. Kids can retain their feces for weeks or months. Symptoms include pain, irritability and loss of appetite. Treatment includes laxatives and stool softeners.

Colon slowdown

In the case of the man in England, refusing food would indeed dramatically delay the urge to defecate, Lustbader said, but that’s a temporary solution: Eventually, malnutrition will become a problem. The best analogy is patients who can’t swallow for neurological reasons, Lustbader said; they can survive on intravenous nutrition for a while, but intravenous feeding is hard to maintain over long periods.

If the man did swallow drugs, Lustbader said, he risks having the packaging they’re wrapped in break down and having the drugs seep into his system. This could cause an overdose. On the other hand, Lustbader said, if the amount of drugs were small, the body could potentially absorb the seepage, and the man might successfully hide the evidence — unless the authorities test his urine. [What’s in Urine? 3,000 Chemicals and Counting]

Holding back the urge to poop could also potentially damage the feedback mechanism that keeps the bowel moving smoothly, Lustbader said.

“If you constantly suppress the need to poop, you do run the risk of altered bowel motility in the future, or possibly needing laxatives or other things to stimulate your colon to work again,” he said.

Even with no food whatsoever, he said, the bowel is likely to produce a little bit of runny discharge. The intestinal lining produces mucous and fluids, so the suspected drug dealer’s colon is not likely to stay completely empty. The man is scheduled for his seventh court hearing on Friday (March 2), according to the BBC.

“We’re going to see who wins,” Lustbader said. “The system or the colon.”

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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