While we often feel great after pooping, other times an energy dip happens, and not just for you. Yes, there is actually a medical explanation for the phenomenon. Here’s the deal.
What can make you feel tired after pooping?
Much of it comes down to the vagal nerves (also known as the vagus nerve), which are the main nerves in your parasympathetic nervous system. These nerves control a variety of functions in your body, including digestion, heart rate, and the immune system.
“Straining 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, leading to something called the vasovagal reflex, says Dr. Stein.
“If you strain or push hard, your stomach muscles tighten and that will decrease blood flow to the vagus nerve,” says Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “That can make you feel dizzy when you get up after a bowel movement or 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.” —Rudolf Bedford, M.D.
Also worth noting: If you hold your breath when you push to poop, it can make you feel weak afterward, says Dr. Stein.
What does it mean if you feel tired after pooping?
For one, you may feel exhausted after a bowel movement simply because you’re constipated and straining to go to the bathroom, says Dr. Bedford. “You should try to keep your bowel movements 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 tachycardia syndrome),” says Dr. Stein. “These conditions make your heart and circulatory system even more sensitive to these vasovagal reflexes.”
How concerning is this?
It depends. If you notice here and there that you feel tired after a bowel movement but otherwise feel fine, Dr. Bedford says you’re probably fine if you bring it up to your doctor at your next physical.
But if this is a regular thing for you, 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 check your blood pressure and heart rate, but also some blood work,” she says. You could be dealing with an underlying health condition you’re not aware of or you may be struggling with pelvic floor issues, says Dr. Stein.
How to prevent this from happening
Since a softer stool means you’ll be less likely to strain on the toilet, Dr. Bedford recommends that you focus on adding more fruits, vegetables, and water to your diet.
You can also try adjusting your bathroom habits. “Sometimes putting your feet in a squatty potty changes the angles and makes the flow easier,” says Dr. Stein. Getting enough sleep can also help, she says.
Also make sure you’re using the proper way to poop: “Pushing harder and holding your breath are likely triggers, so gently activating the right muscles and not forgetting to breathe is really helpful,” says Dr. Stein.
But again, if this is something you’re dealing with on a regular basis, it’s important to bring this up to your doctor. They should be able to take things from there.