The Real Reason the Poop Sweats Take You From 0 to Emergency in, Like, 10 Seconds

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Maybe it happens 20 minutes after you take your first sip of coffee, mid-run, or in those crucial minutes leading up to your big work meeting. Regardless of how or when, well, sh*t happens—and sometimes, the urge to go number two skyrockets from zero to 60 faster than you can locate the nearest commode.

And while excessive sweating is never fun—whether it’s in the form of night sweats, sweating after a shower, or sweating when working out—a bad case of the poop sweats can make you question the severity of your emergency bathroom trip. Why do I sweat and feel sick when I poop? Is this even normal?!

Experts In This Article

Ahead, we dive into the causes of bowel urgency, why poop sweats occur, and the complex relationship between sweating and digestion.

What are poop sweats?

Poop sweats are uncontrollable bouts of sudden sweating that occur when you’re about to have, are currently having, or have just had a bowel movement. These spells of sudden sweating are sometimes accompanied by nausea, chills, dizziness, lightheadedness, or digestive discomfort.

Why do poop sweats happen?

As far as why these bouts of poop-related sweating occur, gastroenterologist Avanish Aggarwal, MD, says you can blame your vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is a key part of the parasympathetic nervous system that oversees digestion, and, among other things, it's responsible for those emergency bathroom trips. The vagus nerve runs from your brain to your abdomen and is part of the gut's nervous system (called the "enteric nervous system"), and it has a lot of power over the urgency of your bathroom trips. That's because it governs peristalsis: an involuntary constriction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles that creates the poop sweats and makes you need to go—like, now.

"Generally speaking, the rectum relaxes as stool moves in and holds it all until it is convenient to have a bowel movement. Or, the rectum reaches its capacity limit, and then there is an urgency to have a bowel movement," says Dr. Aggarwal. "Certain factors may stimulate the rectum to contract and therefore have urgency. One important factor is stress, and the vagus and spinal nerves carry signals to the gut, causing spasm, and therefore urgency1."

So, yes, a particularly biting email from your boss or a cortisol-heavy workout can cause the vagus nerve to send an urgent telegram to the organs downstairs.

Vasovagal reflex symptoms

Sometimes, the stimulation of the vagus nerve can lead to vasovagal syncope. Vasovagal syncope occurs when our bodies fail to autoregulate after being exposed to certain triggers, resulting in a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart rate. This interrupts the blood flow to the brain, causing us to feel dizzy and even faint.

Some common vasovagal reflex symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Blurry vision
  • Pale skin
  • Cold, clammy sweat
  • Weak pulse
  • Dilated pupils

If you have experienced the above symptoms or have passed out during a bowel movement, contact your primary care doctor; while vasovagal syncope is typically harmless, you can potentially injure yourself during an episode, and your doctor may be able to help you mitigate the symptoms.

Are poop sweats harmful?

Poop sweats are incredibly common and on their own, aren’t necessarily harmful, says gastroenterologist Sarah Robbins, MD.

However, frequent bouts of poop-related sweating and rapid bowel urgency could be indicative of more serious bowel issues like irritable bowel syndrome, vasovagal syncope, or bowel incontinence. If you frequently experience excessive sweating while pooping or deal with digestive discomfort on the daily, it may be time to schedule a visit with a gastroenterologist.

Can you prevent poop sweats?

Although you may feel as though you're completely out of control when your vagus nerve decides to do you dirty, Dr. Aggarwal says that's simply not the case.

"One thing we can do to stop the bowel from moving is to squeeze the external anal sphincter muscle voluntarily until it is safe to have a bowel movement. Also, a simple meditation technique can help. Simply focus on the breath coming into and out of the nose. Consciously trying to relax the body and visualizing that the rest of the body is relaxing the muscles helps," says Dr. Aggarwal.

In order to prevent future poop sweat spells from occurring, try these four digestion tips, all gastroenterologist-approved.

1. Practice mindfulness activities to lower your stress

Stress and gut health are undeniably linked. High stress levels can cause—or worsen—gastrointestinal issues like sudden bowel movements and poop sweats.

“When you have a bad emotion, that can stimulate the vasovagal response,” explains Dr. Robinson.

Incorporating mindfulness activities like yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises can help manage your stress, which in turn, could ease bowel discomfort. Because the vagus nerve activates the release of calming hormones like oxytocin, these relaxation techniques can be especially helpful in preventing poop accidents.

“Mindfulness-based practices can actually be quite helpful, particularly for people with irritable bowel syndrome,” Dr. Robinson says.

2. Avoid stimulating foods and adhere to your dietary restrictions

Certain foods that stimulate the gastrocolic reflex can deliver an urgent need to poop right after eating. Foods that are spicy, caffeinated, high in fat or carbs, highly processed, or cannot be properly digested can all stimulate the gut, resulting in sudden bowel movements and poop-related sweating.

“It goes back to knowing your body in terms of what your dietary intolerances are and avoiding those,” explains Dr. Robinson. “If you know that you don't tolerate dairy well, but go and eat a really big ice cream scoop, you're probably going to have some diarrhea and urgency.”

3. Incorporate more fiber into your diet

Another cause of poop sweats is constipation. Ironically enough, constipation can also lead to emergency bathroom trips. After sitting in your GI tract for a long period of time, a sudden change in anxiety or stress can cause fecal urgency.

“When people are very constipated, and they experience a bowel motion or a lot of pain, they get vagus nerve stimulation, and that, then, causes sweating,” adds Dr. Robinson.

To avoid frequent constipation, try eating more high-fiber foods like whole-wheat grains, berries, and broccoli.

4. Create a morning bowel movement routine

Establishing a bowel-friendly morning routine can help you stay regular and in turn, prevent rapid bowel urgency and sudden bowel movements later on in the day, says Dr. Robinson.

“If you've cleared out your valve first thing in the morning and your bowel has a regular, normal morning routine, you're less likely to experience episodes of urgency over the course of the day,” says Dr. Robinson.

Try getting up a little earlier in the morning in order to give your gut enough time to ‘wake up’. Light exercise, a nutritious breakfast, and morning meditation can all stimulate a healthy morning poo—and keep urgent bathroom visits at bay.

5. Stop straining

When you’re constipated, you may feel the urge to strain and push down in order to stimulate a bowel movement. Chronic straining, however, can trigger the vasovagal response and cause the poop sweats. Another reason to stop straining? It can lead to a slew of health problems like a weakened pelvic floor and hemorrhoids.

While these tips can help prevent some occurrences of poop sweats, it might be time to make an appointment with a general practitioner or a gastroenterologist if you find yourself running to the bathroom often (and not just before a stressful family Thanksgiving dinner).

But for those who only occasionally experience the poop sweats, a piece of advice: Say "thank you" to your vagus nerve while you're on the toilet, and consciously relax so you can avoid any sources of stress that await outside the bathroom door.


What causes sweating while pooping?

Excessive sweating while pooping, AKA poop sweats, is caused when the vagus nerve becomes stimulated. This stimulus can cause a sudden urgency to poop and can result in sudden sweating, chills, and nausea.

Are poop sweats normal?

Poop sweats are normal, fairly common, and can happen for a number of reasons.

However, frequent poop sweat spells, consistent bowel discomfort, and rapid bowel urgency could point to something more serious, like IBS.

How do I stop poop sweats?

You can prevent poop-related sweating by eating more fibrous foods, establishing a morning bowel movement routine, avoiding dietary restrictions, avoiding spicy foods, and reducing your stress levels through relaxation techniques like breathwork and yoga.

If you frequently experience poop sweats even after making these changes, you may need to consult your gastroenterologist.

What a dietitian wants you to know about eating for a healthy gut: 


Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Breit, Sigrid et al. “Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders.” Frontiers in psychiatry vol. 9 44. 13 Mar. 2018, doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00044
  2. Jeanmonod, Rebecca, et al. “Vasovagal Episode.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 17 July 2023.

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