10 Weird Things That Can Make You Poop

Every bowel is different.

When a stomach bug invaded Niki Strealy’s house last week, two family members got diarrhea, one vomited, two only felt queasy and two more felt fine.

The scenario goes to show how even people who share a household respond differently to environmental triggers. The same is true for how people’s guts react to certain foods, physical activities and even emotions, says Strealy, a registered dietitian in Portland, Oregon, who specializes in digestive health and calls herself “the Diarrhea Dietitian.”

“Everybody’s bowel is different,” she says. Still, some things tend to get people’s pipes moving more than others. Read on for 10 more surprising triggers.

1. Garlic

If all you need is a breath mint after enjoying a dish rich with garlic, consider yourself lucky. Some people need a toilet, since garlic contains fructans, molecules included among FODMAPs, an acronym for a group of carbohydrates that can trigger symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive conditions.

Onions, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, wheat, barley and rye also contain fructans, which is why some people who avoid gluten to ease digestion might be misplacing their blame, Strealy says. But don’t avoid garlic if it sits well: Some research suggests it can help lower blood pressure and may even lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.

2. Sugar-free candy

Satisfying your sweet tooth with sugar-free candy might save you calories but cause digestive pain. Many such “innocent” treats — as well as sugar-free gum, some protein or nutrition bars and even toothpaste — contain sugar alcohols, compounds found naturally in some fruits and vegetables and also created synthetically to sweeten certain products.

Sugar alcohols, also called polyols, are the “P” in FODMAP and often appear under names including isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, erythritol and xylitol. For some people, consuming them — or, more often, consuming a lot of them — can cause diarrhea, says Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

3. Yoga

Students in Chris Fluck’s yoga classes needn’t be embarrassed if they pass gas while in pavanamuktasana, also known as “wind-relieving pose.” The pose — which involves lying on the ground while squeezing alternate knees to the chest — is intended to do so.

“Hey, we’re yogis; it’s natural,” says Fluck, a Bikram yoga teacher in Philadelphia. Other types of exercises — particularly running — are well-known to promote the, um, runs, as can any number of food and fitness combinations, says Strealy.

Exercise, and running in particular, can promote GI motility, or the need to defecate, so it’s indeed only natural that the more you move, the more your bowels might move too.

4. Caffeinated drinks

Coffee gets all the credit for moving bowels, but other caffeinated beverages can be unsung heroes — or villains, depending on your point of view — too, says Strealy, who often finds that many of her patients with digestive trouble drink massive amounts of caffeinated sodas, black tea and other buzz-inducing beverages.

“Caffeine speeds up GI motility,” she says, since the drug is a stimulant that affects the digestive tract. While some research suggests that coffee can in fact have a laxative effect of its own (decaf coffee, for instance, has been shown to stimulate some people’s colons), your soda habit could be sending you to the bathroom too.

5. Stress

Irritable bowel syndrome? Negative. Celiac disease? Ruled out. Allergy to dairy, wheat or nuts? Nope, nope and nope.

Whether or not you have a medical condition to blame for your loose stools, your sleep habits, relationships, work life and exercise patterns can all influence your urge to hit the loo too, Strealy says. That’s thanks to the power of the gut-brain connection, which affects some people more than others.

“If you have something stressful in your life,” she says, “some people might get migraine headaches, some people get back pain — and other people get constipation or diarrhea.”

6. Agave

If you reached for the agave instead of the refined sugar when dressing up your coffee this morning in an effort to embrace more natural ingredients, hold (your colon) tight before patting yourself on the back.

The nectar born from cactus-like plants (as well as honey and even the very unnatural high-fructose corn syrup) contains a high ratio of fructose to glucose. Free fructose is a simple sugar counted among those difficult-to-digest FODMAPs, and can draw excess water into the bowels when it’s not absorbed. That can cause gas and diarrhea in susceptible people.

“If your body is sensitive to excess fructose,” Strealy says, “it can cause excess problems to your bowels.”

7. Fatty foods

High fat foods, such as greasy fried foods and nuts, can sometimes trigger the gastrocolic reflex, which stimulates bowel motility. In other words, high fat foods can ratchet up the urge to poop shortly after you consume them.

This sensation may become even more intense if you’ve had your gallbladder removed. That’s because the gallbladder stores and concentrates bile, a digestive enzyme that the body uses to break down fats in foods.

It’s perfectly possible to do just fine without a gallbladder, as the liver still creates bile, which is deposited directly into the small intestine. However, lacking a gallbladder can mean the body has a difficult time regulating the right amount of bile release. This can result in diarrhea that’s often worse after higher fat meals.

8. Your ethnicity

Research suggests that some racial and ethnic groups are at higher risk for certain intolerances, particularly to lactose — another common irritant that falls under the FODMAP umbrella, Strealy says.

While the majority of the human population has some limited ability to digest lactose — found in dairy products like milk and yogurt — after infancy, people of East Asian, West African, Arab, Greek and Italian descent are particularly vulnerable, according to the National Institutes of Health.

9. Your period

You might already attribute monthly mood swings, cramps and mental fogginess to your menstrual cycle, but if diarrhea tends to strike cyclically, it’s likely you can chalk it up to your period too, Rajapaksa says.

“Many women notice loose stools” during that time of the month, she says, perhaps due to the same hormonal changes that cause your uterus to contract and, for many women, cramp.

10. A medical condition

Plenty of diseases, including IBS, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are well-known to cause diarrhea, constipation or both. But others like exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, poorly managed diabetes and thyroid disease can result in gastrointestinal distress too, Rajapaksa says.

That’s why it’s important to seek care if your toilet habits have changed or don’t seem normal. “There are activities or foods you can incorporate into your lifestyle to help stimulate your colon, but if those don’t work or you’re having the opposite issue … don’t (just) live with it; speak to your doctor,” Rajapaksa says. “Sometimes it’s a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated.”

10 weird things that can make you poop:

1. Garlic.

2. Sugar-free candy.

3. Yoga.

4. Caffeinated drinks.

5. Stress.

6. Agave.

7. Fatty foods.

8. Your ethnicity.

9. Your period.

10. A medical condition.

More from U.S. News

9 Most Common Food Allergies

Healthy High-Fat Foods

Foods That Age You

10 Weird Things That Can Make You Poop originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 06/21/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Related Categories:

Latest News

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up