Do you have questions about bowel movements (BMs), but are embarrassed to ask? Questions that may seem too weird to share? We’ve gathered science-based answers to common questions about all things poop. Some might call them weird pooping habits. Medical professionals call them important concerns that deserve serious support.
Pooping isn’t usually a comfortable topic of casual discussion. But as they say, everybody does it. Learning about healthy BMs — and how to heal when pooping is a problem — is an important step toward achieving overall better physical health. And consequently, sweet relief.
Why Do I Wake Up in the Morning with Gas?
As you sleep through the night, your colon is at rest, too. When you rouse in the morning, your GI tract is back on full duty and clears out any air collected in there.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH), having extra gas in your digestive tract is rarely abnormal. If you feel that the gas you pass in the morning is excessive or a concern, check with your doctor. Better nutrition, supplements or therapeutic medications could help.
Why Is Pooping Paused Overnight, But I Still Have to Pee?
While your colon is dormant at night, your bladder is still able to take on more fluid. But only until it reaches full capacity. If you drank fluids before bed, your bladder could become full during sleep and need to be emptied at least once before morning.
If you find that you’re urinating often throughout the night, you may need to be checked by a doctor. A common symptom of type 2 diabetes is a frequent urge to urinate, including while you’re trying to sleep.
Why Do I Poop After Drinking My Morning Coffee?
Many people experience the urge to poop after drinking coffee in the morning. Does coffee really act as a laxative? Well, maybe. There could be a few different reasons coffee triggers bowel movements.
First, caffeine is a stimulant. Just as it stimulates your nervous system, it can stimulate your digestive system. Second, drinking hot coffee can be stimulating on the colon because hot beverages tend to move the digestive process along.
Third, one study of coffee consumption showed that coffee can activate the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone in the intestines linked to bowel stimulation.
Why Does Pooping Sometimes Feel So Good?
Pleasurable sensations when pooping can be caused by one major nerve. The vagus nerve connects the digestive tract all the way up to the brain. When having a large BM, the rectum can press against the vagus nerve and stimulate it.
Dr. Anish Sheth, a gastroenterologist and co-author of What’s Your Poo Telling You?, explains how it works. “The net effect of this is a drop in your heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn decreases blood flow to the brain. When mild, the lightheadedness can lead to a sense of sublime relation — the high.” That high is what Dr. Sheth calls poo-phoria.
Why Does Pooping Hurt Sometimes After Eating Spicy Foods?
You’d think those chili spices would go in hot but come out mild, right? Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. Spicy foods can retain their heat as they move through your digestive tract. Keep that in mind before you eat painfully hot foods. It’s not just your mouth that could burn as they pass through.
The science behind burning BMs has to do with the effect of a chili pepper extract called capsaicin, which many spicy foods contain. Capsaicin that moves through the colon can attach to and stimulate pain receptors in the anus when you poop.
Why Do I Find It Hard to Poop When I’m Traveling?
When on vacation, our pooping habits do tend to get a bit weird. It’s probably because life is different when you travel. What and when you eat might be different than your normal routine. The times of day you have bowel movements might be different due to your travel schedule. All of these factors could lead to constipation while travelling.
Your sleep patterns could have a lot to do with it, too. When your circadian rhythms are interrupted your digestive tract can react with constipation. If you’re having trouble pooping while on vacation, try getting better and more regular sleep.
Why Does Having Your Period Trigger More Pooping?
The scientific connection between periods and pooping is — you guessed it — hormonal. When you menstruate, your body releases hormones that can trigger your intestines to contract. Those hormones, called prostaglandins, are the same ones that stimulate the smooth muscle cells of the uterus to shed its lining, causing period blood to flow.
When you have produced more prostaglandins than needed for uterus stimulation, these excess hormones enter the bloodstream. As they move through the body, they can stimulate the smooth muscle cells of additional organs, including your bowels.
Why Did Having Surgery Change My Bowel Movements?
If you’re experiencing weird pooping habits after surgery, it’s probably because of post-surgery medications. Unless your surgery had something to do with your digestive tract, the meds are probably messing with your BM regularity. The science behind why is linked to whatever is in the meds you’ve been prescribed.
For example, some painkillers cause constipation. Opioid painkillers, in particular, can block the GI tract and prevent it from emptying properly. When opioids act on the GI tract, fluids in the tract are more quickly absorbed. This causes waste in the tract to harden and stop moving through.
Why Does Your Poop Float?
Actually, sometimes poop floats but often it doesn’t. If your poop floats now and then, that’s probably no cause for concern. If it floats often, and is very stinky when it does, you may have a GI tract infection that could require medical care. It’s also possible you’re not getting or absorbing enough nutrients.
A great way to learn about poop types (including those floaters) is to browse through the Bristol Stool Chart. Knowing how to identify types of poop by shape, color, etc. will help you and your doctor determine what they might indicate about your health.