For the love of poop, stop holding it around your S.O.—your gut will thank you


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Picture this: You’re in the early stages of a new relationship, and after hours of wining and dining on a marathon date, digestion (obviously) happens, and you feel a pang in your stomach. But you opt to ignore the, uh, call from nature, because you’d just prefer to not go number two while in the blissful presence of your new boo. Sure, trying to “keep it cute” for a short duration is one thing, but I have a friend who never poops around anyone she’s seeing romantically. I’m talking holding in her bowels for up to a week if, say, she goes on vacation with her significant other. She’ll do whatever it takes in order to essentially make it seem like she’s a superhuman who doesn’t have to ever—gasp—defecate.

She’s for sure not alone either. Certain bodily functions are better known for being gross than being totally normal, and society has essentially reinforced that’s it’s A-okay for women to repress and even deny themselves the luxury of letting nature take its course. “Excretions from the body including those produced for protection (sweat, skin oil, mucus), digestion (saliva), reproduction (semen, breast-feeding), or by-products such as menstrual blood, urine, and feces have been associated with negative connotations and uncleanliness,” explains psychologist Danielle Forshee, Psy.D. To avoid seeming “unclean,” then, some people go to great lengths—like, ahem, physical pain—to simply remove themselves from the whole bathroom narrative while in the company of those they’re trying to impress. But newsflash, this charade isn’t so healthy.

Here’s why so many daters refuse to poo around their S.O.—and the health reasons begging them to get over it.

holding in poo
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Everyone poops, so why pretend otherwise?

While some bathroom activities are glam ways to see out your self care (like primping or taking a luxe bath), the more functional reasons to visit the spot are less…’grammable. And since especially in the early stages of a relationship a common goal is to keep things cute, the notion of defecating around an S.O. leading to a drop in sex appeal can be straight up fear-inducing.

“There’s a smell that’s associated with this act,” Dr. Forshee says. “It’s embarrassing because most do not want to associate themselves or something that comes out of them as repugnant. Most prefer to maintain a positive view of themselves, especially to the person they’re dating.” To maintain that positive view and avoid the shame we’ve been socialized to associate with owning our poop, we keep it a secret of sorts.

What holding it in can do to your body

No surprises here, but denying your body of its natural processes can take a toll on your health—specifically in the gut region. “Holding in bowel movements can be thought of as backed-up plumbing in your body,” says Robert Segal, MD, and co-founder of medical-test booking platform LabFinder.com. “The major problems associated with this are caused by fecal bacteria overload. Much of this gas-forming bacteria can result in abdominal pain due to gas overload and bloating.”

“The longer one holds in bowel movements, the harder the stool gets, and the more discomfort occurs.” —Dr. Robert Segal

So while holding it is uncomfortable, doing so can also mean bad news for your gut. After all, the buildup of gas and bloating is kindling for where more serious issues start. “It’s behind functional motility disorders like IBS and constipation,” says Dr. Segal, who adds that relief simply comes with passing those BMs. Holding it in for an extended period will only make things rougher for yourself. “The longer one holds in bowel movements, the harder the stool gets, and the more discomfort occurs,” he says. All in all, it’s no bueno.

Free the feces and deal—here’s how

That oh-so classic children’s book Everyone Poops was written for a reason. All humans (and mammals, for that matter) have to do it. “For those who find defecating near or around your partner embarrassing, remind yourself that it’s normal and that most people feel that way as a result of the socialization process we’ve been exposed to,” says Dr. Forshee.

I know some folks who use comedy to make light of the scenario, which is a coping mechanism you could totally cop and share with your partner. Or you could simply excuse yourself, go to the bathroom, and do what has to be done. You don’t need to give a verbal summary of what you’re up to in there, but you also certainly don’t have to prevent yourself from functioning. Either way, realize that you’re not alone and that you won’t lose any S.O. worth your time for letting your body do its thing.

“All bodily excretions are normal and not to be ashamed of,” says Dr. Forshee. “It’s a part of who we are, and it gives us life.” So, reclaim the bathroom, you guys, because not everything you do has to be cute.

By the way, this is what happens when you hold in farts. So here are some tips for a healthy gut

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