Bowel Movement Frequency and Genetics

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Bowel Movement Frequency and Genetics

Date of Content: March 13, 2024
Written by: Harvey Talento
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


While often considered a taboo, bowel movements are a fundamental aspect of human wellness. Understanding regular bowel movement frequency can significantly impact our overall well-being. This article explores the range of healthy bowel movement frequency and explores factors that influence it.

Bowel movement frequency

The Spectrum of Normalcy in Bowel Movements

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a single “normal” number of bowel movements per day. A healthy range can encompass anywhere from three times daily to three times weekly. The key factor is establishing a regular pattern that feels comfortable and consistent for a person.  Individual variations exist, and some people may find themselves having bowel movements more frequently or less frequently than others.

Stool Consistency as an Indicator

Understanding the nuances of bowel health entails more than merely counting the number of times an individual visits the bathroom in a day. It’s about paying attention to the quality and characteristics of their stool. The consistency of stool serves as a valuable indicator, offering insights into the functioning of their digestive system and overall well-being.

Ideally, a healthy stool should exhibit certain characteristics:

  • It should be soft and effortlessly passed, resembling the shape and texture of a smooth sausage. 
  • The coloration should be a natural brown hue, indicating proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. 
  • Importantly, the act of passing stool should occur without undue straining or discomfort.

When stools deviate from these norms, it can signal underlying issues. Hard, dry stools that are challenging to expel often point to constipation, a condition that may arise due to insufficient fiber intake, dehydration, or certain medications. On the other end of the spectrum, frequent loose stools may indicate diarrhea, resulting from infections, dietary intolerances, or gastrointestinal disorders.

How Genetics May Influence Bowel Movement Frequency

A large genetic study identified 14 independent genetic regions linked to bowel movement frequency. This research offers clues on how genes and their variants can influence gut function in humans. The study suggests that genes in these regions may control how often a person poops by affecting intestinal movement. Here we highlight 5 of the genes.  

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) Gene

The BDNF gene, implicated in regulating neuronal growth and survival, plays a crucial role in modulating bowel movement frequency. Variants in this gene, such as the lead SNP rs12273363, have been associated with stool frequency through GWAS meta-analysis. BDNF is known to exert its effects on enteric neurons, which are integral to coordinating peristalsis and gastrointestinal motility. Hence, genetic variations in BDNF can impact the expression and function of enteric neurons, consequently influencing the frequency of bowel movements.

Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 18 (CDK18) Gene

CDK18, a member of the cyclin-dependent kinase family involved in cell cycle regulation, emerges as a significant contributor to bowel movement frequency. The identified lead SNP rs11240503, located proximal to CDK18, suggests its involvement in modulating stool frequency. CDK18 expression has been detected in colonic M cells and enterocytes, indicating its potential role in colonic function. Variants in CDK18 may affect its expression levels or activity, thereby impacting colonic physiology and bowel movement frequency.

Sorting Nexin 24 (SNX24) Gene

SNX24, a protein involved in intracellular trafficking and sorting, is implicated in the regulation of bowel movement frequency. The lead SNP rs39819 associated with stool frequency maps to the SNX24 gene locus. While the exact mechanism by which SNX24 influences bowel movement frequency remains elucidated, its involvement in cellular processes suggests potential roles in gastrointestinal function. Further studies are warranted to uncover the specific mechanisms through which SNX24 variants exert their effects on stool frequency.

Kinesin Family Member 4B (KIF4B) Gene

KIF4B, a member of the kinesin superfamily of motor proteins, is identified as a candidate gene influencing bowel movement frequency. The lead SNP rs13162291, located near KIF4B, suggests its involvement in modulating stool frequency. KIF4B is implicated in various cellular processes, including intracellular transport and mitosis. While its precise role in gastrointestinal physiology is not fully understood, genetic variations in KIF4B may impact its function in enteric neurons or other relevant cell types, thereby affecting bowel movement frequency.

Lunatic Fringe (LFNG) Gene

The LFNG gene, encoding a glycosyltransferase involved in Notch signaling pathway regulation, is associated with bowel movement frequency. The lead SNP rs12700026, located in proximity to LFNG, suggests its potential role in modulating stool frequency. Notch signaling is implicated in various developmental and physiological processes, including gastrointestinal function. Therefore, genetic variations in LFNG may influence Notch signaling activity in gastrointestinal tissues, ultimately impacting bowel movement frequency. Further investigation is needed to elucidate the specific mechanisms underlying the association between LFNG variants and stool frequency.

While genetic SNP variants mentioned above are individually associated with stool frequency, another approach for finding a person’s genetic likelihood for a trait is to use a PRS (Polygenic Risk Score), which comes from a combination of multiple SNPs that together play a role in the genetic association. LifeDNA’s high-density SNP signature for the Bowel Movement Frequency trait has been developed from a set of 845 SNPs that together play a role in stool frequency (note: only 15 top SNPs are displayed on our report).

Non-Genetic Factors Influencing Bowel Movement Frequency

Aside from genetics, several variables can influence how often an individual has a bowel movement:

  • Dietary Habits: An individual’s dietary choices play a critical role in promoting smooth digestion. Incorporating ample fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into their diet is essential for maintaining regular bowel movements.
  • Hydration Status: Adequate water intake is crucial for keeping stool soft and facilitating its passage through the digestive tract. Dehydration can lead to constipation, making it important for individuals to maintain proper hydration levels.
  • Physical Activity Level: The level of physical activity an individual engages in can have a significant impact on their bowel regularity. Regular exercise stimulates the digestive system and promotes the smooth movement of stool through the intestines, contributing to overall bowel health.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics, can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the gut and alter bowel habits. Individuals taking medications should be aware of potential side effects on their digestive system and discuss any concerns with their healthcare provider.

By considering these factors and making appropriate adjustments to their lifestyle and habits, individuals can maintain optimal bowel health and ensure regular and comfortable bowel movements.

Optimizing Bowel Movement Frequency

To improve bowel movement and promote digestive health, individuals can consider implementing the following suggestions:

  • Increase Fiber Intake: Incorporating more fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts into the diet can add bulk to stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive tract.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day keeps the body well-hydrated, helping to soften stool and facilitate its movement through the intestines.
  • Exercise Regularly: Engaging in regular physical activity stimulates the digestive system and promotes bowel regularity. Even moderate exercise, such as walking or cycling, can have a positive impact on bowel movements.
  • Manage Stress: Chronic stress can affect digestive function and contribute to irregular bowel movements. Practicing stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or mindfulness promotes relaxation and improves overall digestive health.
  • Establish Regular Meal Times: Eating meals at consistent times each day helps regulate bowel movements by establishing a predictable pattern for digestion.
  • Limit Processed Foods and Sugary Snacks: Processed foods and sugary snacks can disrupt gut health and contribute to irregular bowel movements. Opting for whole, nutrient-rich foods supports a healthy digestive system.
  • Consider Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut. Individuals can incorporate probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or kombucha into their diet or speak with their healthcare provider about taking a probiotic supplement.

By incorporating these simple lifestyle changes, individuals can support optimal bowel health and promote regular, comfortable bowel movements. However, if persistent issues or significant changes in bowel habits continue, consulting with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance remains important.

Prioritizing Bowel Health Through Awareness

Paying attention to the body’s natural cues becomes crucial for maintaining optimal bowel health. When individuals feel comfortable and maintain a consistent bowel routine, they’re likely on the right track. However, if concerns arise regarding bowel movements, consulting a doctor is always advisable. Healthcare professionals can identify any underlying conditions and recommend appropriate interventions to restore regularity and promote optimal digestive health.

It is important to remember that bowel movements are a natural and essential physiological process. By understanding normal ranges and the factors that influence them, individuals can achieve optimal digestive health and improve their overall well-being.

About the LifeDNA Wellness Report

Understanding even complex factors like those affecting Bowel Movement Frequency becomes pivotal as we navigate the intricate pathways of our wellness. Imagine having personalized insights into your unique genetic traits related to your well-being. This is where the LifeDNA Wellness Report steps in. Going beyond generic advice, this tool provides tailored recommendations based on your genetic code, offering a holistic perspective on your well-being. By unlocking your genetic insights, you can take proactive steps towards a brighter, more informed lifestyle with the LifeDNA Wellness Report. Get it today!


  • Understanding the genetic basis of bowel movement frequency sheds light on how our guts function. There are differences in how often people go to the bathroom, offering insights into digestive health.
  • There isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition of normal bowel movement frequency. However, there’s a healthy range of how often individuals should have a bowel movement.
  • Ideally, a healthy stool should be soft, easily passed, resembling a smooth sausage in shape and texture, with a natural brown hue indicating proper digestion and absorption, and the passage should occur without undue straining or discomfort.
  • Recent genetic studies have identified individual genes associated with bowel movement frequency. The identified genes influencing bowel movement frequency include BDNF, CDK18, SNX24, KIF4B, and LFNG.
  • In addition to genetics, several factors influence bowel movement frequency. This includes dietary habits, hydration, physical activity level, and medications.
  • Practical tips for optimizing bowel movement frequency offer actionable steps individuals can take to promote digestive health. From dietary adjustments to stress management techniques, these suggestions aim to support regular and comfortable bowel movements.
  • Promoting awareness of bowel health encourages individuals to pay attention to their body’s natural cues and seek medical advice when needed. By understanding normal ranges and recognizing potential red flags, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain optimal digestive health.
  • Individuals can take proactive steps to support their digestive health and overall well-being by considering genetic and non-genetic factors influencing bowel movement frequency.



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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.