Bowel Movements: Why Is It So Important Not to Hold Them in?

Bowel Movements: Why Is It So Important Not to Hold Them in?

Last update: 01 August, 2018

Bowel movements are the natural way in which our bodies eliminate fecal matter – the waste our bodies produce.

An alteration of this completely normal process can produce serious complications to the digestive system. These complications can be both short and long term. Learning more about this issue will help you avoid developing bad habits and act immediately when your body needs it.

Putting off a bowel movement, especially when you want to avoid public restrooms or using the bathroom at someone else’s home, can cause harm to your body. To combat this bad habit, you need to be informed of the importance of bowel movements in staying healthy.

The consequences of putting off a bowel movement

While putting off a bowel movement may seem like something completely harmless, it actually puts your body at risk. This is because once you expel fecal matter, the digestive tract prepares for a new digestion. For this reason, it’s very important you respect the process.

Below are several consequences of not respecting the digestive process by putting off bowel movements:

An inability to absorb nutrients

The organ that is responsible for absorbing nutrients to nourish your body is the small intestine. Holding in or putting off a bowel movement can cause your intestines to collapse. This makes it very difficult for your body to absorb the nutrients that it needs to function correctly.

Painful bowel movements

Holding in a bowel movement when you need to go causes your body to absorb the water from the retained waste. As a result, the fecal matter becomes dry and rough, making their expulsion very painful. This can also lead to further complications such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures, making bowel movements even more unpleasant.

Abdominal strain

Another consequence that results from holding in fecal matter is the accumulation of gases in the intestines. As human waste decomposes, it releases large amounts of vapors that can weaken the intestinal flora – healthy gut bacteria. As a result, your body becomes more vulnerable to the attacks of harmful bacteria.


The need to defecate is a complex process that involves nerve endings and, therefore, the brain.

Through a series of signals, the anal sphincter notifies the brain that it’s time for a bowel movement.

Bowel Movements: Why Is It So Important Not to Hold Them in?

If you frequently put off bowel movements, this impulse is lost over time. As a result, the colon becomes heavy, lazy and too weak to expel feces properly. In other words, you suffer from constipation.

At the same time, constipation leads to other issues like hemorrhoids, abdominal strain, irritable colon, etc. Obesity, fluid retention and other issues may also develop. Some consequences can be more serious and have a great impact on your quality of life.


One complication of holding in fecal matter for a prolonged period of time is diverticulitis. This condition consists of the formation of small pouches on the inside of the intestinal wall, which become infected and swell. They appear as a result of the hardening of feces along with the strain involved in making a bowel movement.


Another consequence of long-term retention is sepsis. This extremely dangerous condition is the result of fecal matter remaining in the rectum for a long period of time. The bacteria can seep into the bloodstream, and the consequences can be fatal.

Why is it important to have a bowel movement every day?

Bowel movements are an indispensable cleaning mechanism that is necessary for good health. And it all begins with healthy eating.

For this reason, your diet needs to include foods that are rich in fiber. Ideally, your body should have frequent and abundant evacuations. Experts agree that you should have a minimum of two bowel movements a day. This action is a reflection of the body’s digestive health. Feces should be soft and free of intense odors. This is especially important during pregnancy.

Bowel Movements: Why Is It So Important Not to Hold Them in?

Recommendations for healthy bowel movements

To boost the healthy functioning of your body, it’s important that you put the following recommendations into practice:

  • Include plenty of fiber-rich food in your diet. For example, fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereals.
  • Exercise regularly, as this favors the nervous system, helping you regulate your bowel movements.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Drink at least 2 liters of water a day to keep your body properly hydrated.

If you notice that the above suggestions aren’t helping to keep you regular, talk to your physician to discover the source of the issue.

It’s crucial that you understand the importance of frequent bowel movements. They not only work to keep your digestive system clean, but also contribute to your overall health.

Make an effort to stay disciplined in regards to your health and save yourself from countless consequences.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cerdán J, Cerdán C, Jiménez F. Anatomofisiología de la continencia y la defecación. Cir Esp. 2005; 78 (Supl 3): 2-7.
  • García P, López G. Evaluación de la absorción y metabolismo intestinal. Nutr Hosp. 2007; 22 (Supl. 2):5-13. ISSN 0212-1611.
  • Martínez de Victoria E, Mañas M, Yago MD. Fisiología de la Digestión. En: Tratado de Nutrición Tomo I. A. Gil editor. Acción Médica. Madrid. 2005; 249-293.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.