As you dive into the pool for a relaxing swim, you might not anticipate the need to take a bathroom break soon after. However, it’s not uncommon for swimmers to feel the urge to poop after spending time in the water. But why does this happen?
Swimming can potentially make you want to poop because when you’re submerged, the surrounding water can compress your abdomen and stimulate your bowels. Additionally, swimming engages your core muscles, which also contributes to bowel movement. Swallowing air and water while swimming might also lead to bloating, which can trigger a sensation of needing to poop as well.
Be aware that swimming in a pool with others who may be sick with diarrhea can contaminate the water with germs. If you happen to swallow even a small amount of that contaminated water, you can get sick as well. Keep reading to learn even more ways that swimming might cause you to want to poop.
The “Poo” In Pool
Is It Real or Just a Coincidence?
You may have noticed or heard people complaining about the urge to poop after swimming. Is it just a coincidence, or is there something more to it?
Do people actually go number two in the pool, or is that a myth? Is there really fecal matter in the pool? These are questions that only the bravest dare to ask, for the answer may be too much for most to bear. Spoiler alert, the answer to these questions is yes.
Let’s explore the connection between swimming and bowel movements.
The Science Behind the Phenomenon
Swimming can play a role in encouraging bowel movements for several reasons:
- Exercise: Swimming is a form of exercise, and exercise, in general, can stimulate your digestive system. As you move and engage your muscles, it helps to move gas and stool through your intestines, which may result in an increased urge to poop.
- Buoyancy: The buoyancy of water helps to take some pressure off your body, including the pressure in your abdomen, which may make it easier for gas and stool to move through your intestines. This can contribute to a feeling of bowel movement.
- Relaxation: Warm water, like that found in pools and hot tubs, can help to relax your muscles, including those in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This relaxation can make it easier for stool to pass, possibly leading to diarrhea or a bowel movement after swimming.
- Chlorine and pool chemicals: The chlorine in pools can sometimes irritate your digestive system, which may contribute to your need to poop after being in the water. This is particularly true if you accidentally swallow some water while swimming, exposing your GI system to chlorine and other chemicals.
Diving into the Human Digestive System
The Digestive System 101: An Overview
Your digestive system is a complex and vital part of your body. Its main function is to break down the food you eat into nutrients that can be absorbed and used for energy, growth, and cell repair.
The digestive tract – which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), and rectum – is responsible for processing food and eliminating waste.
In the colon, the last part of your digestive tract, water is absorbed from the remaining food material, and your body forms stool (poop) to be expelled.
Certain factors, such as medications or inactivity, can affect the muscle contractions in your colon and slow down this process, which may lead to constipation.
Role of Exercise in Digestion
Exercise, including swimming, can have a significant impact on your digestion. When you engage in physical activity, blood flow is redirected away from your digestive system and towards your working muscles, brain, and heart.
This change in blood circulation can sometimes speed up the movement of stool through the colon, leading to an increased urge to poop.
Swimming, in particular, can trigger the release of certain hormones that promote bowel movement. Additionally, the horizontal position of your body while swimming may help food and waste move more smoothly through your digestive system.
In some cases, exercise may temporarily slow down your digestion or lead to other issues – such as gas production – due to the pressure changes experienced during activities like scuba diving.
Therefore, listen to your body and adjust your exercise routine accordingly to maintain a well-functioning digestive system and avoid issues like constipation or diarrhea.
How Might Swimming Encourage Pooping?
The Hydrostatic Pressure Hypothesis
While swimming, your body is subjected to hydrostatic pressure, which leads to increased pressure on your abdomen. This pressure may stimulate your bowel movements, making you feel the urge to poop.
Temperature and Its Effects
The temperature of the water while swimming can have an effect on your urge to poop. Cold water stimulates the Bainbridge reflex, which increases your heart rate and constricts blood vessels, leading to increased pressure on the anal sphincter. This increased pressure may result in involuntary bowel movements.
Chemicals and Their Impact on Bowel Movements
Swimming in pools with chemicals, such as chlorine and bromine, can cause irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. This irritation might trigger bowel movements. However, the effect of these chemicals on bowel movements is still not well-established.
Waterborne Infections and Diarrhea
Swimming in contaminated water can expose you to various waterborne infections, such as Cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes diarrheal diseases.
Even swim diapers can’t fully prevent such germs from contaminating the water. If you notice a lot of children in your pool, be aware that they have likely pooped in the water.
Children, especially those in splash pads and water playgrounds, are more prone to swallowing contaminated water, causing diarrhea and other symptoms.
Anxiety and Anticipation: Psychological Triggers
Sometimes, the anticipation of swimming or anxiety around water can trigger bowel movements. This is a psychological response to stress or excitement, and it’s not uncommon for people to feel the urge to poop in such situations.
Your diet can also contribute to bowel movements during swimming. Eating high-fiber meals or beverages before swimming can lead to increased bowel movements.
Fibrous foods can prevent constipation, which is normally a good thing, but I highly recommend using the bathroom before swimming otherwise you may suddenly get the urge to number two in the middle of the pool.
Also, be careful of eating foods that can make you gassy, such as beans. There’s nothing wrong with farting in the pool, but just make sure that what you’re passing is actually a fart and not more.
Dealing With the Urge to Poop While Swimming
Best Practices Before Swimming
To minimize the chances of experiencing bowel movements during your swim workout, you can take a few preventative measures beforehand.
You can start by incorporating activities like fit yoga or walking to improve digestion and establish regular bathroom habits. Maintaining a healthy diet and ensuring you are properly hydrated can also help regulate bowel movements.
Before heading to the pool, make sure to use the bathroom to empty your bowels as much as possible.
You should also be aware of how your body reacts to certain foods and try to avoid any that can trigger a gastrointestinal response, such as gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Such awareness could help you prevent potential accidents in the swimming pool.
Here are some additional tips to improve digestion while swimming or exercising:
- Avoid eating a large meal right before your workout; allow at least 1-2 hours for digestion.
- Consider incorporating light stretching or yoga into your routine, as it can help with digestion and gas relief.
- Pay attention to your body; some individuals may require more or less time between eating and exercise.
Steps to Take If Nature Calls While Swimming
If you’re swimming and suddenly feel the urge to poop, it’s essential to know what to do. Here are some steps to follow:
- Exit the pool immediately: As soon as you feel the urge, find the nearest exit and leave the pool. Do not try to suppress the feeling; it’s only going to get worse and you might not make it to the restroom in time if you keep stalling.
- Locate the nearest restroom: Once out of the pool, quickly find the nearest restroom to relieve yourself. Remember, holding it in for a long time can strain your muscles and negatively impact your digestion.
- Clean up properly: After using the restroom, clean yourself thoroughly to reduce the risk of spreading fecal matter when you return to the pool.
- Take a brief shower: It’s good practice to rinse off in the shower before re-entering the pool to remove any residual waste and minimize contamination.
- Evaluate your condition: If you experience frequent urges to poop while swimming, consider speaking to a doctor about potential medical conditions that could be impacting your bowel movements. It might also be helpful to focus on less strenuous forms of exercise like running, which may have a lesser effect on digestion compared to swimming, until the issue is addressed.
Pay attention to your body’s signals and respond appropriately to ensure a healthy and enjoyable swimming experience for both you and others around you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does swimming give you diarrhea?
Swimming can potentially lead to diarrhea if you’re exposed to contaminated water. Certain parasites, like Cryptosporidium, are known to cause diarrhea and can be present in pools, especially if proper hygiene isn’t maintained. Additionally, the stress or excitement of swimming can stimulate the digestive system, leading to looser stools. However, regular swimming in clean water doesn’t inherently cause diarrhea. If you frequently experience diarrhea after swimming, it might be worth discussing with a healthcare professional.
Does swimming in chlorine make you poop?
Chlorine itself isn’t likely to make you poop. However, the chemicals used to treat swimming pools can sometimes irritate the digestive system, especially if you accidentally swallow pool water. This might contribute to an increased urge to defecate. The sensation isn’t universal and varies from person to person. Avoid swallowing pool water and maintain a balanced diet to keep your digestive system healthy.
Does swimming help with gut health?
Swimming, like many forms of exercise, can indeed contribute positively to gut health. Regular physical activity aids in the smooth functioning of your digestive system, promoting regular bowel movements and reducing the risk of constipation. Moreover, exercise can help manage stress, which can have a positive impact on gut health. However, remember that a healthy diet, proper hydration, and overall lifestyle are also crucial factors for maintaining gut health.