While we often have feel good after poo, other times there is an energy dip that is happening, and not just for you. Yes, there is actually a medical explanation for the phenomenon. Here’s the deal.
What can make you tired after pooping?
Much depends on your vagal nerves (or vagus nerve), which are the main nerves of your parasympathetic nervous system. These nerves control a range of functions in your body, including your digestion, heart rate, and immune system.
“Filter very hard during a bowel movement can activate the vagus nerve,” explains Ellen M. Stein, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. For some people, heart rate slows and blood pressure drops when the vagus nerve is activated, resulting in what’s called a vasovagal reflex, Dr. Stein says.
“If you force or push hard, your stomach muscles contract and this will decrease blood flow in the vagus nerve,” explains Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “It can make you feel dizzy when you get up after a bowel movement or when you are tired. Some people will even pass out or pass out if they try hard enough.
“Some people will even pass out or pass out if they try hard enough.” —Rudolph Bedford, MD
Also note: If you hold your breath when pushing to poo, it can weaken you later, says Dr. Stein.
What does it mean if you feel tired after pooping?
On some level, it’s possible to feel exhausted after pooping simply because you’re constipated and working hard to get there, says Dr. Bedford. “You should try to keep your stools soft so you don’t strain,” he suggests.
But the phenomenon can also be a sign that something else is going on with your health. “Some patients have underlying heart problems and now many patients have post-COVID syndromes or post-viral syndromes like POTS (postural orthostatic syndrome and tachycardia)says Dr. Stein. “These conditions make their heart and circulatory system even more sensitive to these vasovagal reflexes.”
Why is this worrying?
It depends. If you notice here and there that you feel tired after pooping, but otherwise feel fine, Dr. Bedford says you can probably mention this to your doctor during your next physical.
But if this happens to you regularly, Dr. Bedford, it’s a good idea to proactively contact your doctor to see what might be going on. “Not only do you need to have your blood pressure and heart rate checked, but you also need to do blood work,” he says. You could be dealing with an underlying health condition you’re unaware of or struggling with pelvic floor issues, Dr. Stein says.
How to prevent this from happening
Since a softer stool means you’ll be less likely to strain on the toilet, Dr. Bedford recommends you focus on add more fruits, vegetables and water to your diet.
You can also try to adjust your toilet habits. “Sometimes lifting your feet on a chunky pot changes angles and facilitates flow,” says Dr. Stein. Getting enough sleep can also help, she says.
Also, make sure you’re using an appropriate form of poo: “Pushing harder and holding your breath are likely triggers, so gently activating the right muscles and remembering to breathe is really helpful,” Dr. Stein says.
But, again, if this is something you deal with on a regular basis, it’s important to report it to your doctor. They should be able to take things from there.