Healthy Body

The Return of the Dreaded In-Office Poop—How To Prep Your Brain and Your Bowels for Public Pooping

Kara Jillian Brown

Photo: Stocksy / J Danielle Wehunt
The COVID vaccine rollout is hitting its stride across the U.S. and many people are beginning to feel something they haven’t in over a year: hope. But even as we begin to make plans for the future, re-entering this new “normal” may feel uncomfortable—anxiety-provoking, even. With Summer Vaxacation, we’re here to help ease the transition out of our homes and into society.

I think one of the best things about this pandemic-induced work-from-home situation is that I'm always within steps of my own bathroom. Many a work-day poop has come and gone without having to deal with the anxiety of pooping in public. Now that we're discussing a return to the office, I can already feel the discomfort.

It's been an absolute privilege to be able to work at home during this time. And while I'm excited to get back to the office, I'm not thrilled to resume sharing four toilets with fifty other women. If you too are in the process of readjusting to office life, there are a few things you can do to take pooping off of your list of worries. First things first, remember that everyone poops!

Everyone has their own level of comfort when it comes to bowel movements. While you might feel super comfortable at this point going number two in front of your significant other (especially after so much time spent at home together), getting used to pooping in public again might be awkward.

Ways to avoid pooping in public

Niket Sonpal, MD, internist and gastroenterologist, says that it's possible use your diet to ensure you poop before you head out for the day, significantly reducing your chances of having to take a mid-day dump.

"The average person will poop one to two times a day with a high fiber diet," says Dr. Sonpal. "If you have a large fiber meal or a lot of beans or food that's rich in soft digestible sort of fiber at night and you have what's called 'overnight transit time,' you will then poop in the morning. This is influenced of course by years and years of habits and, of course, caffeine intake."

These are the foods that make you poop:

Caffeine has a strong laxative effect, and if you want to avoid pooping in the office, it might be time to cut the coffee stop from your commute.

"Most people will poop in the office, not because that's their timetable. It's when they drink coffee," says Dr. Sonpal. "If they want to be the kind of person who poops before going to work, [they should] have a lot of fiber throughout the day, but more importantly at night for dinner. Drink coffee before your commute, at least a half an hour before you leave. This will help with modulating that timetable. The average person poops within 30 minutes of drinking coffee."

If you can't shake the ritual of starting your morning with a special drink at your desk, consider switching to decaffeinated coffee or matcha (which contains caffeine but not as much as coffee).

These are the benefits of coffee, explained by an RD:

What to do if pooping in public is the only option

If you do have to poop, the best thing to do is poop. Holding it in too often can wreak havoc on your gut health. Possible embarrassment aside, fears surrounding pooping in public are also tied to hygiene. Personally, I don't sit on public toilets and have struggled through many a poop while hovering a few inches away from the toilet, which is uncomfortable. Dr. Sonpal says office bathrooms probably aren't that gross and health risks of sitting on a public toilet are minimal.

"People think that bathrooms are unclean, which if you've ever been to a gas station, they're not wrong," says Dr. Sonpal. "At the same time, the offices that are in corporate buildings and hospitals, now post-pandemic timeline, I think there are as safe as they can be because of all the sort of practices for hygiene."

If you're concerned about the noise that comes with pooping in public, Dr. Sonpal says to use your phone to drown out the noise. "I've told patients who have severe public bathrooms fear that they should just watch a few TikTok videos on the medium volume while they're going," he says. And if you're worried about odor, just bring a bottle of Poo-Pourri ($10) with you into the stall. "You can spray it in the toilet before going and the oil then on top blocks the hydrocarbons that our body produces from stool. It reduces the amount of odor," he says.

However, the easiest thing to do is just own your public poops. "It's nothing to worry about," says Dr. Sonpal. "Go to the bathroom when you have to go to the bathroom because it's better out than in."

The bottom line is that everyone else in your office (and the world) also poops. If you've got to go, do it without fear.

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