Let's get right down to it: Have you ever gone to the bathroom and found yourself squeezing out more than poop? Like, all of a sudden you're crying a little bit, but nothing hurts and so you have no idea why there are actual tears streaming out of your eyeballs? I hadn't heard of this before, but this phenomenon is actually not that rare—there are entire Reddit threads devoted to the topic. (Yes, I read a lot of them for research for this piece.) Armed with some preliminary knowledge of poop crying, I set out to find an expert who could answer my most pressing questions. One of the joys of my job is sending out multiple professional emails with the subject line "Why do people cry when they poop?" (Cue JD and Turk.)
"For many people, the tears are not from pain but the increase in intra-abdominal pressure to help your rectum squeeze out stool," says gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal, MD. Intra-abdominal pressure, also known as IAP, refers to the natural state of pressure within the abdomen; it fluctuates throughout the day depending on your breathing pattern and other factors. When you're squeezing out a poop, the pressure builds in your abdomen to help move things through your system. "That combined increase in pressure in the abdomen also happens in your skull, and a few tears [can] squeeze out," says Dr. Sonpal. Talk about that mind-gut connection.
Naturally, I was flush (ha) with questions for Dr. Sonpal. Namely—who are these poop criers? Are there people more predisposed to poop crying? "Poop criers can be anyone, and it's not something that can happen every time," he says. "A large bowel movement or one that causes some straining without pain can lead to tears. Anything that makes you bear down a lot could lead to it." For example, Dr. Sonpal says that a diet high in meat and starchy carbs could lead to poop crying, because these low-fibrous foods can lead to extra strain while going number two.
- Niket Sonpal, MD, board-certified gastroenterologist and adjunct assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
Looking for more digestion-related intel? Check out this 101 guide to gut health:
In some cases, large BMs can even lead to "poo-phoria." No, it's not the HBO show with Zendaya, it's literally the euphoria of taking a very satisfying poop. "The syndrome is not well understood, but for some people a large bowel movement can distend the rectum and stimulate the vagus nerve," Dr. Sonpal says. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body, and directly connects the brain and the gastrointestinal system—and inviting it to the party can make a BM session pretty intense. "This stimulation is usually associated with having an orgasm," he says. Hot damn.
Again, while crying while pooping isn't necessarily a bad thing, always having to push and strain in the bathroom isn't ideal. So if you're looking for some relief, Dr. Sonpal says to add more fiber to your diet. "Large amounts of fiber and water increase the bulk of the stool, and make you go more frequently, and the stools are softer," he says. "Thus less straining, and less tears! Presto!" (This is the enthusiasm I needed on a Monday afternoon.)
So, poop crying is actually pretty normal. As one Redditor so poetically put it: "I wouldn't worry man. It's just a part of poopin."
- Milanesi, Rafaela, and Rita Catalina Aquino Caregnato. “Intra-abdominal pressure: an integrative review.” Einstein (Sao Paulo, Brazil) vol. 14,3 (2016): 423-430. doi:10.1590/S1679-45082016RW3088
- 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
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